Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Communist Party of India on Tuesday demanded the re-negotiation of the Kacchativu Agreement between India and Sri Lanka on the rights of fishermen, as, they said, “this was a grey area.”

Raising the matter during zero hour D. Raja (CPI), said the agreement signed in 1974 allowed Indian fishermen and pilgrims access to Kacchativu without obtaining travel documents for these purposes. The agreement also said that the vessels of India and Sri Lanka would enjoy previous traditional rights in each other’s waters.

Mr Raja said, “After 1983, problems arose. When Indira Gandhi signed the agreement [in 1974] she said Kacchativu was sheer rock, of no strategic importance. Now the island in Palk Straits has become a strategic area. Against this background, we must see the war in Sri Lanka tending to become a war against Indian fishermen too. There is harassment.”

He said in a reply to an earlier Rajya Sabha question, the government had said that Indian fishermen had access to the Kacchativu island to rest, for drying of nets, for attending the annual Saint Anthony’s festival. “The right of access is not understood to cover fishing rights around the island to Indian fishermen,” the then reply said.

Quoting the reply, Mr. Raja said this was a grey area that required the agreement to be re-opened and re-negotiated to protect the rights of Indian fishermen.