Three former foreign secretaries ask parties not to rake up Katchatheevu

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Three former foreign secretaries ask parties not to rake up Katchatheevu

Wednesday, 03 April 2024 | Kumar Chellappan | CHENNAI

Three former foreign secretaries  ask parties not to rake up Katchatheevu

The DMK’s game plan to bring in Katchatheevu, a 285 acre uninhabited islet 20 km off Rameswaram coast, an issue in the upcoming Lok Sabha poll has backfired as three former Foreign Secretaries of the country have issued a stern warning to the major political parties which are behind the move.

It all started with the DMK’s manifesto for the 2024 election blaming the BJP Government at the Centre for failing to retrieve the islet that was seceded to Sri Lanka in 1975 by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi as part of the move to settle the international maritime boundary line between the two countries.

It has also been revealed that a technology innovation by Union Government’s INCOIS laboratory to keep the fishermen away from international maritime border line did not take off because of the lack of interest in it by a political party in Tamil Nadu. 

Shiv Shankar Menon, who was the Foreign Secretary and later national security adviser under the UPA Government led by Manmohan Singh has alerted the parties not to rake up the Katchatheev issue.

“It is like scoring a self-goal and will be counter productive,” Menon told media persons who asked him about the possibility of retrieving the islet, a bone of contention between fishermen of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka.

Nirupama Rao, former Foreign Secretary who too was the High Commissioner to Sri Lanka reminded the political parties that international agreements, however, unjust they might be, have sanctity and they cannot be repudiated by successor Governments. 

“If India abrogates the agreement unilaterally, its image will suffer; the best possible solution is to get the Island of Kachchatheevu and the adjoining seas on lease in perpetuity,” said Rao in her social media post,

G C Shekhar, chronicler of Tamil Nadu politics, pointed out that at no point of time Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said his Government would retrieve Katchatheevu from Sri Lanka. “Former attorney general Mukul Rohatgi had told the Supreme Court that India has to wage a war with Sri Lanka to retrieve Katchateevu. The matter ends there,” said Shekhar who expressed his doubts over the DMK’s move to rake up the issue at this point of time.

“It seems they have run out of issues,” he said. 

The Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Service (INCOIS), a research laboratory under the Union Ministry of Earth Sciences had developed a technology with which Tamil Nadu fishermen approaching the maritime boundary line with Sri Lanka are given real time warning that they were about to cross the “danger zone”.

But the Tamil Nadu fishermen switched off the warning system installed on the fishing boats and hence the project did not succeed,” said Dr T M Balakrishnan, senior scientist, INCOIS, who led the team of researchers in developing the technology. 


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