PM Modi lashes out at Congress for giving away Katchatheevu island to Sri Lanka


Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday lashed out at the Congress party over a controversial island, Katchatheevu that was given to Sri Lanka by former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1974. The Katchatheevu island debate has taken centre stage in Tamil Nadu politics as the Lok Sabha election nears.

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PM Modi on Sunday cited a report in Times of India that said, ‘RTI reply shows how Indira Gandhi ceded the island to Sri Lanka’. The PM on the X platfrom wrote, “Eye-opening and startling! New facts reveal how Congress callously gave away Katchatheevu”.

PM Narendra Modi added, “Weakening India’s unity, integrity, and interests has been Congress’ way of working for 75 years and counting”.

RTI reply on Katchatheevu island

According to the document obtained by Tamil Nadu’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief K Annamalai via an RTI application, the Indira Gandhi government in 1974 handed over the Katchatheevu island, located in Palk Strait to Sri Lanka.

The report also cited the statement of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on the issue.

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Sri Lanka, then Ceylon, pressed its claim on the island after independence. The island country said that the Indian Navy (then Royal Indian Navy) could not conduct exercises on Katchatheevu without its permission.

On 10 May 1961, Nehru said he would not hesitate to give up claims to Katchatheevu. “I attach no importance to all to this little island and I would have no hesitation in giving up our claims to it, ” Nehru wrote as quoted by Times of India.

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Commonwealth Secretary YD Gundevia quoted Nehru’s minutes. However, until 1974 the final decision on Katchatheevu island was not finalised.

Then-Attorney General MC Setalvad in 1960 also stated that India had a stronger claim on the island formed due to volcanic eruptions in a reference to the Zamindari Rights given by the East Indian company to Raja of Ramnad over the islet and fishery resources around it.

The Raja enjoyed rights in Katchatheevu island from 875 to 1948 which later got vested in the State of Madras after the abolition of the Zamindari system.

In 1968, the Opposition chided the Indira government for speaking wi the Ceylonese PM Senanayake who showed the island in their territory on maps.

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In 1973, foreign secretary-level talks were held in Colombo regarding the disputed island. A year later, the decision to relinquish India’s claim was conveyed to Tamil Nadu CM M Karunanidhi in June.

India’s then foreign secretary Kewal Singh emphasised that Sri Lanka had shown records that the island was part of the kingdom of Jaffnapatnam, Dutch and British maps.

In 1974, the island Indian government handed over the island to Sri Lanka in an act of bilateral largesse

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Published: 31 Mar 2024, 11:20 AM IST


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