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A recent RTI application filed by Tamil Nadu BJP chief K. Annamalai has reignited the debate surrounding the Katchatheevu island dispute between India and Sri Lanka. Documents obtained through the application shed light on India’s evolving approach to the issue, raising questions about sovereignty and strategic considerations.

Katchatheevu is a small, uninhabited island of approximately 285 acres located in the Palk Strait, a narrow waterway separating India and Sri Lanka. Despite its modest size, the island holds strategic importance due to its location within rich fishing grounds.

Sri Lanka has consistently maintained its claim to Katchatheevu, citing historical documents and past maritime agreements. These documents reportedly indicate that the island belonged to the Jaffna Kingdom, a historic Tamil kingdom in Sri Lanka.

India’s position on Katchatheevu has been less consistent. While the island was initially considered Indian territory, the Indira Gandhi government downplayed its strategic value, labeling it a “sheer rock with no strategic significance.” In 1974, India ceded the island to Sri Lanka in a maritime boundary agreement, hoping for a permanent settlement of maritime issues between the two nations.

Despite the agreement, the relinquishment of Katchatheevu has been a source of contention, particularly in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, which has strong cultural ties to Sri Lanka’s Tamil population. Tamil Nadu fishermen have also faced issues with Sri Lankan authorities regarding fishing rights in the vicinity of the island.

The recent RTI application and the revealed documents highlight the complexities surrounding India’s decision to cede Katchatheevu. The episode reignites the debate on sovereignty, strategic considerations, and the impact on fishermen’s livelihoods.