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Katchatheevu Island Dispute

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his speech in the Parliament mentioned the island of Katchatheevu. Katchatheevu Island Dispute..


Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his speech in the Parliament mentioned the island of Katchatheevu.

Where is the island of Katchatheevu?

Katchatheevu is an uninhabited off-shore island in the Palk Strait. The island is located between Neduntheevu, Sri Lanka and Rameswaram, India. It was formed due to volcanic eruptions in the 14th century.

Administration and History

  • The 285-acre land was jointly administered by India and Sri Lanka during British rule.
  • The Raja of Ramnad (present-day Ramanathapuram, Tamil Nadu) owned Katchatheevu island and later became part of the Madras Presidency.
  • In 1921, both Sri Lanka and India claimed this piece of land for fishing and the dispute remained unsettled.
    After Indian independence, the country initiated to resolve the pre-independence territory dispute between Ceylon and the British.
    Today, the uninhabited island is administered by Sri Lanka.


  • Fishermen of both countries have been fishing in each other’s waters without conflict for a very long time. The issue emerged when both countries signed four Maritime Boundary Agreements between 1974-76. The agreement marked the international maritime boundary of India and Sri Lanka.
  • In 1974, then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi accepted Katchatheevu as Sri Lankan area under the “Indo-Sri Lankan Maritime Agreement” aimed at resolving the maritime boundaries in the Palk Strait.
  • Another agreement signed in 1976 restricted both the countries’ fishermen from fishing in the other’s exclusive economic zones.
  • The agreement aimed to facilitate resource management and law enforcement in the Palk Strait. Now, Indian fishermen were only allowed to use the island for resting, net drying and the annual St. Anthony’s festival.
  • They are not permitted to use the island for fishing. However, Indian fishermen continued trespassing the Sri Lankan water boundary, searching for better catch in the area.
  • The next few decades went well but the problem turned serious when fish and aquatic life in the Indian continental shelf depleted, which resulted in an increased number of Indian fishermen in the region. They are also using modern fishing trolleys which harm marine life and the ecosystem.

What is the agreement now?

In 1974, Indira Gandhi made attempts to settle the maritime border between India and Sri Lanka, once and for all.

As a part of this settlement, known as the ‘Indo-Sri Lankan Maritime agreement’, Indira Gandhi ‘ceded’ Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka. At the time, she thought the island had little strategic value and that ceasing India’s claim over the island would deepen its ties with its southern neighbour.

What lies ahead?

  • Neither India nor Sri Lanka defined a shared rationale for punitive action or peaceful settlement when they signed the agreement. As a result, Sri Lanka has taken drastic steps of penalising fishermen with one crore INR as bail amount.
  • Furthermore, it is urged that both the governments agree to “coordinated patrols” by both nations’ naval forces. It should be practiced to the point of detaining and handing over the accused to their respective nations, where they will be judged for the same offence, rather than the harsh and barbaric conditions of the other country.
  • According to recent reports, the Sri Lankan fisheries ministry has raised this long-running fisherman’s complaint with United States Ambassador Martin K. Kelly. Furthermore, rumours have surfaced of Chinese ships approaching this area. For a considerable time, transgressions have become a cause of national security worry, leading to job losses and environmental deterioration. Diplomatic accomplishment is defined by the ability to turn a crisis into an opportunity. It is an excellent opportunity for India to move fast and address the issue before any third party complicates matters further.
  • Keeping the gravity of the situation in mind, it is imperative to look out for the fishermen and provide them with sustainable alternatives to bottom-trawling, which will secure the future of both the Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen without jeopardising the existing bilateral relationship.

FAQs about the Katchatheevu Island Dispute

1. Where is Katchatheevu Island located?

Katchatheevu Island is an uninhabited offshore island situated in the Palk Strait, between Neduntheevu (Sri Lanka) and Rameswaram (India). It was formed as a result of volcanic activity in the 14th century.

2. What is the history of the administration of Katchatheevu Island?

During British rule, the 285-acre island was jointly administered by India and Sri Lanka. It was initially owned by the Raja of Ramnad and later became part of the Madras Presidency. However, after Indian independence, the island’s administration was transferred to Sri Lanka.

3. What led to the conflict surrounding Katchatheevu Island?

The conflict arose due to fishing activities in the region. Despite fishermen from both countries traditionally fishing in each other’s waters without conflict, the signing of Maritime Boundary Agreements between 1974-76 triggered tensions. The agreements established maritime boundaries and ceded Katchatheevu Island to Sri Lanka.

4. What did the 1974 agreements entail?

The 1974 agreements, including the ‘Indo-Sri Lankan Maritime Agreement,’ recognized Katchatheevu Island as part of Sri Lanka’s territory. Indian fishermen were restricted from fishing in Sri Lanka’s exclusive economic zone. However, they were allowed to use the island for certain purposes, excluding fishing.

5. What issues emerged over time with the fishing activities?

Over time, increased fishing by Indian fishermen in the region led to resource depletion and the use of destructive fishing methods. The issue escalated as Indian fishermen continued to trespass Sri Lankan waters, using modern equipment harmful to the marine ecosystem.

Read also:- Fishing Industry in India

Katchatheevu Island Dispute,Katchatheevu Island Dispute,Katchatheevu Island Dispute

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