The Katchatheevu Conundrum: Dangers of Indian Distorted Politics

It is disheartening to observe the current state of Sri Lanka's diplomatic missions and the manner in which our diplomats represent the country on critical issues. Previously, Sri Lankan diplomats maintained a strong position and displayed diplomatic equilibrium, but unfortunately, this has eroded

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Katchatheevu island [ Photo Credit: Shalitha Chathuranga]

by Our Political Affairs Editor

Borders are the scars of history – French diplomat and historian François Guizot

Indian critics have continued to spread false information, alleging that their former Prime Minister Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi gifted Katchatheevu island to Sri Lanka, which they argue rightfully belongs to India. Such claims, however, are unfounded and have been debunked. As one of our great minds in contemporary history, Professor Harry G. Frankfurt, wrote in his essay ‘On Bullshits,’ producing falsehoods requires no conviction, as it is impossible to lie unless one thinks they know the truth.

Indian propagandists and pseudo-nationalists, disguised as thinkers, strategists, experts, and journalists, attempt to teach neighbouring countries how to bow down before the “big brother.” Correspondingly, most Tamil Nadu politicians are on a rampage against Sri Lanka, distorting historical facts to prove their argument. After months of silence in Tamil Nadu politics, a leader came forward and said that the LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, who is mostly known as the “South Asian Butcher/ South Asian Pol Pot,” is still alive. Now they are coming up with another theory, saying India has gifted an island to Sri Lanka. What?

Katchatheevu was a disputed island until 1976, after which it became clear that the island was administered by Sri Lanka, respecting both local and international laws. This was not a gift by India, but rather the result of the legitimacy and sovereignty of a nation.

It is unfortunate to see some Indians using ancient mythology to justify their claim while rejecting ground realities. Similarly, the continued indifference of the Sri Lankan side has given some social justification to Indian arguments. Neither politicians nor social reformists or the so-called media in Sri Lanka are taking the facts of this serious issue seriously.

It is disheartening to observe the current state of Sri Lanka’s diplomatic missions and the manner in which our diplomats represent the country on critical issues. Previously, Sri Lankan diplomats maintained a strong position and displayed diplomatic equilibrium, but unfortunately, this has eroded. Instead, a group of individuals has emerged who use their position for personal gain, and there are concerns about whether some of them truly represent Sri Lanka or another country of their choice. This destructive situation raises the question of who can effectively advocate for honest and fact-based dialogue on important issues, while also ensuring that Sri Lanka’s territorial rights are protected. This is the reason why some Indians are embracing falsehood and dancing with it.

Let us briefly examine the facts surrounding Katchatheevu and how Sri Lanka and India solved this disputed piece of land. Before the emergence of warmongers and selfish Tamil Nadu politicians, Sri Lankan and Indian fishermen went fishing together in these areas, collaborating with each other. Indian fishermen who fished in Sri Lankan waters would dry their nets on Katchatheevu Island, while Sri Lankan fishermen would fish in Wadge Bank in Indian seas, where most Sri Lankans consumed fish were available.

During the British colonial era, according to naval archaeological remnants and official records, the Far-East Fleet of the Royal Navy situated in Trincomalee used the Katchatheevu island for gunnery practice. In the year following Sri Lanka’s independence, the first session of the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea was held in Geneva, where nations began discussing the demarcations of sea owned by each respective nation. Sri Lankan participation in these discussions was hailed by many other countries and organizations, and the country’s contributions were attributed remarkably.

Former Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike was particularly skilled at selecting the right person for the right position. Hamilton Shirley Amerasinghe, one of the leaders of the negotiations to draft the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, played an invaluable role in this. Former Foreign Secretary W.T. Jayasinghe’s efforts to present historical and political aspects of the issue also left a lasting impression on policymakers and other stakeholders. Among many other Sri Lankan patriots, former Navy Commander Admiral Deshamanya D. B. Gunasekara must also be recognized for his remarkable role in this matter.

Having a dialogue with India, if someone says it’s an easy task, then they are mistaken. Especially when it comes to territorial disputes, true Indian intellectuals will never give up. However, the issue of Katchatheevu was different, and India was unable to justify their arguments. Therefore, India was compelled to accept Sri Lanka’s argument and allow them to claim sovereignty over the island. Since then, Sri Lanka has helped Katchatheevu to remain an island of peace without playing any dirty political games. The Sri Lankan Navy fully renovated the island’s Catholic shrine and allowed worship from both countries without any hindrance.

At the same time, even if the Sri Lankan Navy tried to install a Buddha statue on the island, there would be nothing wrong with it. Katchatheevu is not a Catholic island; it is part of Sri Lankan land and an uninhabited island. If the island can have a Catholic shrine, what is wrong with placing a Buddha statue or any other religious monument on the island? Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country, and Katchatheevu is an uninhabited island under Sri Lanka’s sovereignty. It is not a gift from anyone but a legitimate right to own. Period!

Sri Lanka Guardian

The Sri Lanka Guardian is an online web portal founded in August 2007 by a group of concerned Sri Lankan citizens including journalists, activists, academics and retired civil servants. We are independent and non-profit. Email: editor@slguardian.org

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