[Answered] Examine the historical context of the Katchatheevu Island dispute and its impact on the fishermen’s rights and bilateral relations between India and Sri Lanka.

Introduction: Brief contextual introduction

Body: Highlight the historical context of the island, its impact on fishermen, and bilateral relations.

Conclusion: Way forward

Katchatheevu, a small, uninhabited island in the Palk Strait between India and Sri Lanka, has been a source of contention for decades.

Historical Context

  • Pre-colonial Period: Fishing communities on both sides traditionally used the island and surrounding waters.
  • Colonial Era (1920s): Dispute arose between British India and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) over ownership. India claimed it belonged to a local landlord, while Sri Lanka cited historical ties to the Jaffna region.
  • 1974 Agreement: A maritime boundary agreement between Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi (India) and Sirimavo Bandaranaike (Sri Lanka) recognized Katchatheevu as Sri Lankan territory. However, it allowed Indian fishermen fishing rights in the surrounding waters.

Impact on fishermen’s rights

  • Indian fishermen claim traditional fishing rights in the waters surrounding Katchatheevu, which they have been using for generations. However, the agreement between India and Sri Lanka restricts their access to these waters.
  • Sri Lankan authorities have occasionally arrested Indian fishermen who crossed into Sri Lankan waters, leading to tensions and sometimes diplomatic incidents between the two countries.
  • The issue has impacted the livelihood of fishermen and has led to frequent tension between India and Sri Lanka over control of marine resources.

Bilateral Relations

  • Strained Relations: The Katchatheevu issue remains a sensitive topic, impacting relations between the two countries.
  • Tamil Nadu Politics: The issue is particularly sensitive in India’s Tamil Nadu state, home to many affected fishermen. Politicians often use it to gain political mileage.
  • Dialogue Attempts: Despite tensions, both countries have engaged in dialogue to find solutions for fishermen’s rights and ensure peaceful co-existence.


Finally, the Katchatheevu Island dispute has endured as a longstanding issue between India and Sri Lanka, primarily revolving around fishing rights and sovereignty. Despite ongoing efforts to tackle the matter through bilateral agreements and dialogue, tensions persist, affecting the livelihoods of fishermen and occasionally straining the bilateral relationship. The quest for a sustainable resolution to the dispute continues to pose a significant challenge for both nations.

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