EAM says India doing everything for release of Indian fishermen, reminds Stalin of 1974 Katchatheevu handover

New Delhi/Colombo, June 27 (UNI) External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar conveyed to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin that while the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka is doing everything for the release of Indian fishermen held by Colombo, he should not forget the genesis of the issue – reminding him of the 1974 pact of ceding Katchatheevu island to Sri Lanka.

In a letter to the Tamil Nadu CM, which he posted on X, the EAM said that as of June 26, 34 Indian fishermen are under judicial remand of Sri Lanka and six others are convicted and serving sentences in Sri Lankan jails.

The EAM was replying to the Tamil Nadu CM’s previous three letters to him regarding the detention of Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy.

“The Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka and the Consulate in Jaffna have been expeditiously and consistently taking up such cases for early release of those detained.

“You are also aware that the genesis of this issue goes back to 1974, following an understanding between the then Union Government and the State government (meaning, Tamil Nadu).”

He said after the BJP-led NDA government came to power in 2014, it has been trying to address the livelihood of the Indian fishermen community and its humanitarian aspects. These efforts include through engaging with the government of Sri Lanka. He ended the letter by saying that the government of India gives the utmost priority to the welfare and security of Indian fishermen and will always do so.

The EAM’s letter comes as the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) said that 10 Indian fishermen are facing prosecution over several charges, including the death of a Sri Lankan naval personnel during duty.

A SLN personnel from the Navy Special Boat Squadron had sustained critical injuries due to the aggressive manoeuvres of an Indian fishing trawler during a special operation off Kankesanthurai on June 25. He succumbed to his injuries after being admitted to the Jaffna Teaching Hospital.

The postmortem examination determined that the sailor’s death was an accident, resulting from spinal cord damage, media reports said.

The seized Indian trawler along with 10 Indian fishermen was brought to the Kankesanthurai Harbour and handed over to the Police for legal proceedings.

Kachchatheevu is a small island located in the Palk Strait. Through the Indo-Sri Lankan Maritime Pact of 1974 the then Indian government under Indira Gandhi-led Congress ceded the island to Sri Lanka.

The issue resurfaced ahead of the 2024 general elections when Prime Minister Narendra Modi targeted Congress after Tamil Nadu BJP chief Annamalai’s RTI revealed that Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s government had agreed to hand over the close to 300 acres Katchatheevu island to Sri Lanka.

In 1961, then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had termed the Katchatheevu island issue “inconsequential.”

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