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"Has not studied issue": Hardeep Singh hits back at P Chidambaram over Katchatheevu row

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New Delhi | April 3, 2024 11:58:40 AM IST
A day after senior Congress leader P Chidambaram refuted the allegations that the Congress "gave away" Katchatheevu Island to Sri Lanka in 1970, Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said the former has "not studied the issue."

The issue has grabbed headlines ahead of the general elections starting in the third week of April, with the leaders of both parties, the BJP and Congress, engaged in a war of words.

Speaking to ANI, Puri said, "I think former Home Minister P Chidambaram has not studied this issue (Katchatheevu Island). Whatever the Prime Minister has said and the facts on record were also explained by the External Affairs Minister, S Jaishankar, at a press conference."

"There are historical records suggesting that both countries had territorial claims to the island. But the question arises: Former Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi took the decision to hand over the sovereignty of the island to Sri Lanka (then Ceylon). Former diplomat Keval Singh went to Madras and held a meeting with the Chief Minister at that time".

"They worked out a formula, due to which it came into the hands of Ceylon.There are a lot of issues connected with it," he added.

Earlier, Chidambram claimed that the sufferings of over six lakh Tamils who were in Sri Lanka compelled the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi to acknowledge that the island belonged to the neighbouring country.

"It's an absurd allegation. This agreement was arrived at in 1974 and 1976. PM Modi is referring to a recent RTI reply, he should refer to the RTI reply of January 27, 2015, when I believe EAM S Jaishankar was foreign secretary. That reply clearly says that after negotiations on the island lay on the Sri Lankan side of the international border. Why did Indira Gandhi acknowledge that it belonged to Sri Lanka? Because six lakh Tamils were suffering in Sri Lanka, they had to come to India as refugees. As a result of this settlement, six lakh Tamils came to India and they are enjoying freedom with all the Human rights here," Chidambaram said earlier in the month.

PM Modi on Monday targeted Congress party and DMK over the Katchatheevu island issue.

"Eye opening and startling! New facts reveal how Congress callously gave away #Katchatheevu. This has angered every Indian and reaffirmed in people's minds- we can't ever trust Congress! Weakening India's unity, integrity and interests has been Congress' way of working for 75 years and counting," PM Modi said earlier in a post on X referring to a media report.

The media report is based on an RTI reply received by Tamil Nadu BJP chief K Annamalai to his queries on the 1974 agreement between India and Lanka when Indira Gandhi was the prime minister.

Earlier S Jaishankar alleged that India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru did not give importance to the island territory.

"This is an observation by the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in May of 1961. He says, he writes, 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 parliament. So to Pandit Nehru, this was a little island. It had no importance. He saw it as a nuisance," Jaishankar said at a press conference on Monday.

The island, located between Rameswaram in India and Sri Lanka, is traditionally used by both Sri Lankan and Indian fishermen.

In 1974, the then central government accepted Katchatheevu as Sri Lankan territory under the "Indo-Sri Lankan Maritime Agreement." (ANI)

 
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