Will start talks with Sri Lanka to get fishing rights off Katchatheevu: EAM | India News

NEW DELHI: Amid disclosures through RTI that India did not try hard enough to keep Katchatheevu, external affairs minister S Jaishankar said govt will open negotiations with Sri Lanka over implementation of India-Sri Lanka Maritime Boundary Act and a subsequent deal based on which Colombo is stopping Indian fishermen from operating in waters near the island.
“We should get fishing rights. We need to sit with Sri Lankan authorities and sort it out. Even today, our fishermen are being arrested and vessels are being seized. Katchatheevu island was given away in 1974 and fishing rights were given away in 1976,” Jaishankar said as he held Congress and DMK equally responsible for “ceding claim without putting up resistance”.
He said the most basic reason was indifference shown by central govt and the Prime Ministers of the day (Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi) and connivance of DMK govt with Congress regime of the time.
“We know who did it but people of the country should be told who hid it. In May of 1961, PM Nehru wrote that he attaches no importance at all to this little island and he would have no hesitation in giving up claim to it. He wrote that he doesn’t like matters like this being pending indefinitely and being raised again and again in Parliament. He saw it as a nuisance,” Jaishankar said, reading out from documents on the agreement and preceding debates on the issue.
The minister further added that people have a right to know how Katchatheevu was given to Sri Lanka, why even fishing rights were given up in 1976 after giving an assurance to Parliament that fishing rights of Indians had been safeguarded in the 1974 agreement.
In past 20 years, 6,184 Indian fishermen have been detained and 1,175 Indian fishing vessels seized, detained or apprehended by Sri Lanka, Jaishankar said as he called out DMK and Congress for making it appear that the issue has emerged out of thin air and they were not responsible for the island being ceded to Sri Lanka.
“In past five years, Katchatheevu and fishermen’s issue have been repeatedly raised by various parties in Parliament. The then chief minister of Tamil Nadu has written to me numerous times. And my record shows that to the current CM (M K Stalin), I have replied 21 times on this issue. This is not an issue which has suddenly surfaced. This is a live issue,” the minister said.
“Now, every political party in Tamil Nadu has taken a position on this matter. As though the situation is for today’s central govt to resolve, there is no history to this, this has just happened, they are people who are taking up the cause; that is the way they would like to project it,” he said.
“The PM (Indira Gandhi) is said to have remarked in an All India Congress Committee (AICC) meeting that this is a little rock. I am reminded of those days when Pandit Nehru called our northern boundary a place where not a blade of grass grew. I would like to remind that after this historic statement by Nehru, he never regained confidence of the country,” Jaishankar said, adding that the same happened to Indira when she said this was only a “little rock”. “This dismissive attitude was the historic Congress attitude towards Katchatheevu,” he said.

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