All about the Katchatheevu Islands which is recently in the limelight!

Know about the dispute related to the Katchatheevu Islands between India and Sri Lanka, its history and why it is important to the fishermen of Tamil Nadu.

Hitanshu Bhatt
New Update
katchatheevu island

Katchatheevu, a 285-acre island between India and Sri Lanka, has recently been in the spotlight due to a political row between the ruling and the opposition governments. The stretch is spread over 1.6 km in length and slightly over 300 m wide at its widest point. It is about 33 kilometres from the Indian coast in the Palk Strait between Rameswaram in India and Sri Lanka and is currently under Sri Lanka's authorities. However, issues have surfaced regarding its ownership due to an X (formerly Twitter) banter.

Long history of Katchatheevu Island 

Before its separation in 1947, the Island belonged to the Madras Presidency, which is present-day Tamil Nadu. However, the Island has had a long history of controversies regarding its ownership. According to reports, it was ruled by the Jaffna kingdom of Sri Lanka in the early Middle Ages. Later, the Ramnad kingdom of Ramanathpuram in India took control over it, and it was then ruled by the kings of the dynasty until the British era, while Sri Lanka demanded its control. Due to ongoing pressure, then Prime Minister of India, the late Indira Gandhi, signed an agreement with Sri Lanka, which gave them access to the island.


What was the agreement?

According to the Indo-Sri Lankan Maritime Agreement signed in 1947 between India and Sri Lanka, Katchatheevu was ceded (given control of) to Sri Lanka. In 1974, according to the ‘Agreement on the Boundary in Historic Waters between the two countries and Related Matters,’ Sri Lanka was granted ownership status. The agreement was signed in Colombo on June 26, 1974, and in New Delhi on June 28, 1974, resulting in Sri Lanka gaining control over the region, which is mostly uninhabitable due to the lack of freshwater. A few indigenous people stay on this island, which has only one structure, St. Anthony's shrine. According to the treaty, Indian fishermen can attend the annual St. Anthony's festival happening there and rest for the drying of nets.

The importance of this area to fishermen

The area is of utmost importance to the fishermen of Tamil Nadu, since they conduct most of their fishing activities in this area. They venture out into the sea for fishing and often end up in the Katchatheevu area. Most of the fishermen from Tamil Nadu who venture into the area face actions from the Sri Lankan authorities. They are detained by the Sri Lankan forces on numerous occasions, leading to a problem. This continuous barrier limits access to traditional fishing waters, threatening the economic stability and social fabric of the communities dependent on the fishing industry. Therefore, the current government has raised the issue, stating the lack of understanding before signing the agreement.

island between India and Sri Lanka Rameswaram in India Palk Strait history of Katchatheevu Island Indo-Sri Lankan Maritime Agreement St. Anthony's shrine St. Anthony's festival