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Ahead of the Lok Sabha Election on April 19, 2024, the BJP has launched a fresh offensive against the Congress and the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in Tamil Nadu. On Monday, PM Modi also criticised the DMK for mishandling the Katchatheevu island issue, accusing the ruling party of Tamil Nadu of neglecting the state’s interests.

PM Modi took to X to highlight new revelations about India’s transfer of the Katchatheevu island to Sri Lanka, exposing what he described as the DMK’s double standards. He cited a news report indicating that then Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi had approved the agreement despite his party’s public opposition to it.

“Despite their rhetoric, the DMK has taken no action to protect Tamil Nadu’s interests. Recent revelations about #Katchatheevu have completely exposed the DMK’s hypocrisy. Congress and DMK are like family units. They prioritize the advancement of their own kin and disregard others. Their negligence regarding Katchatheevu has particularly harmed our impoverished fishermen and fisherwomen,” PM Modi tweeted.

The media report is based on an RTI response received by Tamil Nadu BJP president K Annamalai, inquiring about the 1974 agreement between India and Sri Lanka during Indira Gandhi’s tenure as prime minister.

While the Sri Lankan government has yet to comment on the recent statements made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar regarding Katchatheevu, the local media has taken a critical stance on the matter.

In its editorial on Tuesday, the Colombo-based English newspaper Daily Mirror observed, “Sadly, even the seemingly unflappable Indian External Affairs Minister – Jaishankar – has dropped all pretence of statesmanship and has joined hands with his premier to rouse communal feelings in the hope of gaining a few votes in Tamil Nadu.” The editorial expressed the desire for Sri Lanka to be allowed autonomy from India’s internal politics.

Daily Financial Times in its editorial titled ‘Katchatheevu was not India’s to ‘give away’, described the remarks as “a distortion of facts, a subtle appeal to South Indian nationalism, and a perilous and unnecessary provocation of a friendly neighbour that could lead to serious consequences.”

The editorial warned against the continuous provocative assertions regarding Sri Lankan territory, particularly from influential figures in India, suggesting that such actions could compel Sri Lanka to seek security assurances from other sources.

Katchatheevu island row

The Katchatheevu island row is a longstanding dispute between India and Sri Lanka.The dispute arose primarily due to the differing interpretations of historical agreements and treaties between the two countries. In 1974, India ceded administrative control of Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka through a bilateral agreement. However, the agreement did not address the issue of maritime boundaries, leading to continued disagreements over fishing rights, maritime boundaries, and territorial sovereignty. This has caused tension, especially concerning Indian fishermen. Indian fishermen have frequently been detained by the Sri Lankan authorities for allegedly fishing in Sri Lankan waters near Katchatheevu. Efforts to resolve the issue are ongoing, but it remains unresolved.

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Published: 03 Apr 2024, 09:25 AM IST

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