Sri Lankan Minister Dismisses Indian Claims on Katchatheevu Dispute
Sri Lankan Minister Dismisses Indian Claims on Katchatheevu Dispute

SRI LANKA: In a new development regarding the Katchatheevu island dispute between India and Sri Lanka, Sri Lankan Minister of Fisheries, Douglas Devananda, has refuted Indian assertions, stating they hold no merit. This response follows accusations from the Narendra Modi government that the Congress and its ally DMK had compromised national interests by relinquishing control of Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka in 1974.

Speaking to media in Jaffna, Minister Devananda downplayed India's claims during the election season, asserting that Sri Lanka is acting in its own interests to safeguard the area from Sri Lankan fishermen. He emphasized that Sri Lanka should not stake any claims to the resource-rich area, dismissing India's statements as unfounded.

Devananda highlighted the fishing agreements between the two nations, pointing out that while fishing was initially permitted in both countries' territorial waters under the 1974 agreement, a revision in 1976 banned fishermen from both countries from accessing neighboring waters. He also mentioned a larger area known as the West Bank, secured by India in the 1976 review agreement, which he claimed was 80 times larger than Katchatheevu island.

The Katchatheevu island, ceded to Sri Lanka in 1974, has been a subject of occasional violations by fishermen from both nations, despite the pact surrounding the uninhabited island.

India's External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar recently raised concerns over Sri Lanka's detention of 1,175 fishing vessels and over 6,000 Indian fishermen for the past two decades following the implementation of the no-fishing agreement.

The territorial dispute over Katchatheevu, once a subdued issue, has gained international attention and become a contentious topic in Indian elections. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has voiced discontent among Indian fishermen, who have been restricted from accessing Sri Lankan waters since the 1976 agreement.

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