Home INDIA “PM Nehru Wanted To Give It Away”: S Jaishankar As Katchatheevu Row Heats Up

“PM Nehru Wanted To Give It Away”: S Jaishankar As Katchatheevu Row Heats Up

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"PM Nehru Wanted To Give It Away": S Jaishankar As Katchatheevu Row Heats Up


External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar, who doubled down on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s complaint to the Opposition over the Katchatheevu Island row, today said that Jawaharlal Nehru, the country’s first Prime Minister, wanted to give away the island to Sri Lanka .

In 1974, the then Indira Gandhi government had accepted the island, about 1.6 km long and over 300 meters wide, as a Sri Lankan territory under the Indo-Sri Lankan Maritime Agreement. The issue has resurfaced following a media report based on an RTI response received by Tamil Nadu BJP chief K Annamalai on the 1974 pact. In 1976, after the Tamil Nadu government was dismissed during the Emergency, another pact banned the fishermen of both countries to fish in each other’s waters. The harassment of Tamil Nadu fishermen by the Lankan authorities is a key issue in the state, and the BJP has raised it ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

Addressing the media today, Dr Jaishankar quoted former External Affairs Minister Swaran Singh’s 1974 speech in Parliament. “I am confident that the agreement demarcating the maritime boundary in Palk Bay will be considered fair, just and equitable for both countries. At the same time, I would like to remind honorable members that in concluding this agreement, the rights to fishing pilgrimage and navigation activities, which both sides have enjoyed in the past, have been fully secured for the future,” he said, quoting the former minister .

In less than two years, Dr Jaishankar said, there was another agreement between India and Sri Lanka. “In this agreement, India has proposed that: With the establishment of the Exclusive Economic Zones by the two countries, India and Sri Lanka will exercise sovereign rights over the living and non-living resources of their respective zones. “The fishing vessels and fishermen of India shall not engage in fishing in the historic waters, territorial sea and exclusive zone of Sri Lanka,” he said.

“(In) 1974, certainty is given. In 1976, an agreement is made that gives away this certainty,” he said.

As a result, he said, 6,184 Indian fishermen have been arrested in the past two decades. During the same period, 1,175 Indian fishing vessels have been seized by the Lankans, he added.

The Katchatheevu issue has been repeatedly raised by various parties in Parliament over the past five years. “In fact, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu has written to me numerous times. My record shows that I have replied to the current Prime Minister (MK Stalin) 21 times on this issue. This is not an issue that has suddenly surfaced. This is an issue that has suddenly surfaced. is a current issue,” he said.

The Congress and DMK, he said, have approached the matter “as if they have no responsibility”. “We believe that the public has a right to know how this situation came about.”

“We know who did this, how the situation arose. What we don’t know is who hid this, what was hid from the public,” he said.

India’s claim, he said, is mainly that Kathatheevu Island belonged to the Raja of Ramnad and that he owned it from the British era. Later his rights passed to the Madras government. “The Indian view was also that there was no documentary evidence that Sri Lanka had an original title,” he said, adding that the Sri Lankan argument was that they have documents dating back to the 17th century.

According to him, after both India and Sri Lanka became independent, there were problems between these countries over the use of this island. In 1974, Dr. Jaishankar said that the then Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, and Mrs. Gandhi discussed this during the latter’s trip to India.

In 1958, Attorney General MC Setalvad said in a legal opinion that while the case is not without its problems, “the balance is in favor of the conclusion that the sovereignty of the island lay and lies in India,” Dr Jaishankar said.

Key figures, he said, believed that “we have a case” and felt we should at least push for fishing rights around the island. “The island was also given away in 1974 and the fishing rights in 1976,” he said.

“How this could have happened has many aspects. One of them is the indifference shown by the central government and the then prime ministers towards the territory of India. The fact is that they simply did not care,” said Dr Jaishankar.

Quoting a comment of Prime Minister Nehru in May 1961, he said: ‘I attach no importance at all to this small island and I would not hesitate to give up our claim to it. brought up again and again in Parliament.”

“So for Pandit Nehru, this was a small island, he saw it as a nuisance. For him, the sooner you give it away, the better,” the minister said.

This vision, he said, continued in the Indira Gandhi era. Mrs Gandhi, he said, had remarked at a Congress meeting that this island was a ‘little rock’. “This dismissive attitude was the historic attitude of Congress towards Katchatheevu.”

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