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Katchatheevu Island: A Historical Perspective

Katchatheevu, an Indian island with a tumultuous past, has been a focal point of contention between India and Sri Lanka since its cession in 1974.

Bilateral Largesse: The Transfer of Ownership

  • In 1974, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi yielded Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka under the administration of Sirimavo Bandaranaike, marking a significant bilateral agreement.
  • This act of cession preceded the delineation of the maritime boundary in the Sethusamudram region in 1976, further solidifying Sri Lanka’s claim.

Civil War Fallout: A Battleground of Conflicts

  • The onset of the Sri Lankan civil war in 1983 turned Katchatheevu into a volatile arena for clashes between Indian Tamil fishermen and the Sinhala-dominated Sri Lankan navy.
  • Lives, livelihoods, and properties were lost due to accidental crossings of the international maritime boundary line, exacerbating tensions between the two nations.

Complex Geopolitical Legacy: A Relic of Colonial South Asia

  • Katchatheevu’s history traces back to its inclusion in the Ramnad Zamindari, establishing its Indian ownership under the Nayak dynasty of Madurai.
  • Leases by European powers, such as the Dutch East India Company in 1767 and the British East India Company in 1822, further complicate its historical narrative.

Ongoing Disputes and Speculations

  • Present-day apprehensions include concerns among Sinhalese fishermen regarding potential leasing of Katchatheevu to India by the Sri Lankan administration.
  • However, the issue transcends simplistic narratives, reflecting deeper geopolitical intricacies inherited from colonial rule in South Asia.

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