Daily Current Affairs for UPSC

Katchatheevu island controversy

Syllabus- International Relations [GS Paper-2]


Recently, the leader of the ruling political party attacked the main opposition party about its decision to “callously give away” the Katchatheevu island.

Island of Katchatheevu

  • Geographical location
      • Katchatheevu is an uninhabited location in the Palk Strait, between India and Sri Lanka.
      • It is not any more than 1.6 km in length and barely over 300 m wide at its broadest point.
      • It lies northeast of Rameswaram, about 33 km from the Indian coast.
      • It is about 62 km southwest of Jaffna, on the northern tip of Sri Lanka, and 24 km far from the inhabited Delft Island, belonging to Sri Lanka.
  • History
      • Being the product of a 14-century volcanic eruption, Katchatheevu is relatively new in the geological timescale.
      • In the early medieval period, it was controlled by the Jaffna country of Sri Lanka.
      • In the seventeenth century, control surpassed the Ramnad zamindari based out of Ramanathapuram, about 55 km northwest of Rameswaram.
  • Dispute
    • The Island became part of the Madras Presidency during the British Raj.
    • But in 1921, both India and Sri Lanka, at the time British colonies, claimed Katchatheevu a good way to determine fishing obstacles.
    • A survey marked Katchatheevu in Sri Lanka, but a British delegation from India challenged this, mentioning ownership of the island by the Ramnad country.
    • This dispute was not settled till 1974.

Agreement on Katchatheevu Island

  • Indo-Sri Lankan Maritime settlement of 1974
      • In 1974, the then Indian govt under Indira Gandhi made efforts to settle the maritime border between India and Sri Lanka, once and for all.
      • As a part of this agreement, referred to as the ‘Indo-Sri Lankan Maritime agreement’, Katchatheevu was ceded to Sri Lanka.
      • At the time, she thought the island had little strategic value and that ceasing India’s declaration over the island would deepen its ties with its southern neighbour.
  • 1974 settlement and fishing rights of Indian fishermen
      • As in keeping with the agreement, Indian fishermen have been still allowed to get access to Katchatheevu.
      • Unfortunately, the issue of fishing rights was not ironed out by the agreement.
      • Sri Lanka interpreted Indian fishermens’ right to get access to Katchatheevu to be constrained to rest, drying nets and for visit to the Catholic shrine without visa.
  • 1976 agreement
    • Another settlement in 1976, throughout the period of Emergency in India, barred both countries from fishing in the other’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
    • Again, Katchatheevu lay right at the edge of the EEZs of either country, preserving a diploma of uncertainty with regards to fishing rights.

How did the Sri Lankan Civil War impact Katchatheevu?

  • During a period between 1983 and 2009
      • Between 1983 and 2009, the border dispute remained at the back burner as a bloody civil war raged in Sri Lanka.
      • As Sri Lankan naval forces focused on blocking off LTTE supply lines from Jaffna, Indian fishermen often entered Sri Lankan waters.
      • Larger Indian trawlers were specifically disliked for overfishing and damaging neighborhood fishing equipment and boats.
  • After 2009
    • In 2009, the war with the LTTE ended, and matters dramatically modified.
    • Colombo beefed up its maritime defences, and grew to turned focus to Indian fishermen.
    • Facing a depletion of marine resources on the Indian aspect, they could often input Sri Lankan waters as they were doing for years, however eventually started facing consequences.
    • Till date, the Sri Lankan military automatically arrests Indian fishermen and there have been many allegations of custodial torture and death.
    • The demand for Katchatheevu is revived each time such an incident happens.

Stand of the Union Government at the Issue

  • The successive Union government’s stand on Katchatheevu has largely remained unchanged.
  • It has argued that since the island had always been under dispute, no territory belonging to India was ceded nor sovereignty relinquished.

Source: The Hindu

UPSC Mains Practice Question

Q.‘India is an age-old friend of Sri Lanka.’ Discuss India’s role in the recent crisis in Sri Lanka in the light of the preceding statement. (2022)

image_pdfDownload as PDF
Alt Text Alt Text

    Image Description

    Related Articles

    Back to top button
    Shopping cart0
    There are no products in the cart!