Why did India cede the Katchatheevu island to Sri Lanka in 1974?
Kachatheevu originally belonged to kings of Ramanathapuram. No maps of Sri Lanka showed it as its territory. However, seeing it’s strategic location, Sri Lanka started claiming it. The issue was discussed some times during the meeting between Indian and Sri Lankan leaders. However suddenly in 1974 Indira Gandhi has signed an agreement whereby Kachatheevu was given to Sri Lanka. Many reasons may be attributed. But the most important reason for this settlement is below.
After operation Smiling Buddha on may 1974, India was under enormous pressure from International Communities. India desperately needed support and Sri Lanka offered the help. Sri Lanka was to host Non Aligned Movement summit for the year 1976 and it was also likely that president of United nations general Assembly to be from Sri Lanka. Hence Indira Gandhi hurriedly got in to an agreement with Sri Lanka, whereby she ceded Kachatheevu to Sri Lanka in 7th july, 1974 without hearing Tamil Nadu or without discussing it in parliament.
This settlement agreement is invalid since it is not passed or ratified by parliament. No one is discussing the validity of this agreement and Union Government now maintains it to be a settled issue even in courts, whereas as a result of this agreement, fishermen are facing issues daily. Present Sri Lankan Prime Minister has said that Indian fishermen could be shot if they intruded in Sri Lankan waters and on 23.07.2016 a Sri Lankan minister has said it is easier to shoot the fishermen rather than arresting them. These are not simple issues. Can we shoot a fisherman from Pakistan or Bangladesh who have intruded in to Indian shores? Are we not after two Italian marines who shot two Indian fishermen? We even arrest terrorists who enter with sinister designs and put them under trail. We do not shoot if Sri Lankan fishermen enter Indian waters. Sri Lanka is said to a friendly country. What kind of friendship this is some strategists have to explain. Playing China or Pakistan card is not a healthy argument. India aspires to be a world power. For the short sighted benefits, Tamils have been left in a perennial hostile environment and the settlement of Island is a great strategic loss to India which will be learnt in long term.