'Nehru saw Katchatheevu island as a nuisance, gave it away': Jaishankar attacks Congress, DMK

CM M Karunanidhi was kept fully informed about the agreement, the EAM added

PTI04_01_2024_000017B EAM S Jaishankar

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has hit out at the Congress and Tamil Nadu's ruling DMK over the Kachatheevu island issue, stating India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru saw the island as a nuisance and gave it away. 

"The fact is they simply did not care. In an observation given by Nehru in May 1961, he wrote, 'I attach no importance at all to this little island and I would have no hesitation in giving up our claim to it. I do not like matters like this pending indefinitely and being raised again and again in the  Parliament," said Jaishankar as the Lankan island issue hogs the limelight again. 

The EAM said that Nehru viewed this as a little island with no significance. "To Pandit Nehru, this was a little island, it had no importance, he saw it as a nuisance... For him, the sooner you give it away, the better," he added.

The island, 1.6 km long and over 300 m wide, was handed over to Sri Lanka under the  Indo-Sri Lankan maritime agreement in 1974. The issue, which has been dominating Tamil Nadu politics for some time, resurfaced again after a media report based on an RTI reply received by Tamil Nadu BJP chief K Annamalai on the 1974 pact. 

Jaishankar said the fishing rights to the island too were given away in 1975 despite legal views to the contrary. 

He alleged that the Congress continued with its dismissive attitude towards Katchatheevu. "This view continued during Indira Gandhi's tenure as well. There was a member of parliament called G. Viswanathan from Tamil Nadu and he says, 'We are worried about Diego Garcia, thousands of miles away from the Indian territory, but we are not worried about this small island," Jaishankar told reporters. 

"Gandhi is said to have remarked in the AICC meeting that this is a little rock. I am reminded of those days when Pandit Nehru called about our northern boundary as a place where not a blade of grass grew," he said.

The EAM said that the issue has not cropped up abruptly but was always a live matter. "It has been frequently raised in Parliament and has been a matter of frequent correspondence between the Centre and the state government," Jaishankar said.

He added that he has replied to the chief minister at least 21 times. He also slammed the DMK over its public posturing against the agreement.

"Chief Minister M Karunanidhi was kept fully informed about the agreement, first reached in 1974 between India and Sri Lanka. The Congress and DMK raised the issue in Parliament as if they bear no responsibility for it, while they are the parties which did it," he said.

The DMK very much "connived" with the Congress in 1974 and afterwards in creating this situation.

It is the Narendra Modi government which has been working to ensure that the Indian fishermen are released, he said, adding, "We have to find a solution. We have to sit down and work it out with the Sri Lankan government."

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