Katchatheevu agreement did not ‘cede’ territory, Opposition hits back citing 2015 MEA response  

The opposition's response came after External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar claimed that Prime Ministers from the Congress displayed indifference about Katchatheevu island

April 01, 2024 06:07 pm | Updated April 02, 2024 07:31 am IST - New Delhi

Senior Congress leaders P. Chidambaram and Jairam Ramesh. File.

Senior Congress leaders P. Chidambaram and Jairam Ramesh. File. | Photo Credit: KAMAL NARANG

Hours after External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar blamed the previous Congress governments for “giving away” the Katchatheevu island to Sri Lanka, Opposition leaders hit back by citing a 2015 response of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) that clearly stated the previous agreements did not “involve either acquiring or ceding of territory belonging to India”.

The Opposition leaders asked if the “change of stance” by the Narendra Modi government was related to “election politics”.

“Tit for tat is old. Tweet for Tweet is the new weapon. Will Foreign Minister Mr. Jaishankar please refer to the RTI [Right to Information] reply dated 27-1-2015...The Reply justified the circumstances under which India acknowledged that a small island belonged to Sri Lanka,” former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said in a post on social media platform X.

Also read: Katchatheevu | What is the controversy all about?

“How quickly can people change colours. From a suave liberal Foreign Service officer to a smart Foreign Secretary to a mouthpiece of the RSS-BJP, life and times of Mr Jaishankar will be recorded in the annals of acrobatic sports,” Mr. Chidambaram added.

In a post on X, Shiv Sena-Uddhav Balasaheb Thackery (UBT) leader and Rajya Sabha member Priyanka Chaturvedi shared the 2015 RTI response from the MEA which said Katchatheevu Island lies on the Sri Lanka side of the India-Sri Lanka International Maritime Boundary Line that was delineated by the 1974 agreement demarcating it in the Palk Straits, and a subsequent 1976 agreement demarcating it in the Gulf of Mannar and Bay of Bengal.

“This did not involve either acquiring or ceding of territory belonging to India since the area in question had never been demarcated. Under the Agreements, the Island of Katchatheevu lies on the Sri Lankan side of the India-Sri Lanka International Maritime Boundary Line,” the MEA had said on January 27, 2015. 

“Today, the Foreign Minister and yesterday the PM claimed it has been ‘ceded’ So is the change in stance for their election politics or has Modi-ji made a case for Sri Lanka?” Ms. Chaturvedi asked. 

Former Union Minister Anand Sharma, in a post on X, said India’s strategic interests and relationships with its neighbours must not be lost to electoral narrative.

“India’s leaders must be mindful of the facts of History, sensitivities of the neighbours and country’s national interests,” Mr. Sharma posted, adding, ”The accusation of surrendering territory against Indira ji who ensured the merger of Sikkim and liberation of Bangladesh is unwarranted and unfair.”

Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh asked if the Minister of External Affairs was “disowning the reply given by the Ministry of External Affairs when the same Dr. Jaishankar was Foreign Secretary”.

“The easiest to hunt in a political expedition is a scapegoat. Who will it be?” Mr. Ramesh asked.

Hitting back at Mr. Modi, who had accused the Congress of gifting away the island and surrendering fishing rights, several Congress leaders asked Mr. Modi to talk about alleged Chinese incursions into Indian territory.

“Just like the Land Boundary Agreement with Bangladesh, Katchatheevu was done out of friendship. But what you are doing with China is out of fear,” Congress leader Pawan Khera alleged.

“Chinese troops have come into thousands of kilometres into our territory. Sonam Wangchuk has been raising it in Ladakh, your MP from Arunachal Pradesh Tapir Gao has raised. And you gave a clean chit to China with your eyes closed. That is fear,” Mr. Khera said. 

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.