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Sri Lankan Cabinet did not discuss Katchatheevu issue: Cabinet spokesman

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Colombo, Apr 2 (PTI) Sri Lanka's Cabinet has not discussed the Katchatheevu issue so far as it was never raised, a government spokesman said here on Tuesday, after India's ruling BJP blamed the Congress Party for ceding the tiny island to Colombo in 1974.

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“The Cabinet did not discuss it as it was never raised," Bandula Gunawardena, the Cabinet spokesman and minister of information told reporters here today.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday cited a media report to assert that new facts reveal that the Congress Party “callously” gave away Katchatheevu island to Sri Lanka.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar also slammed the Congress Party and ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) over the Katchchatheevu island issue.

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On Monday, Jaishankar claimed that prime ministers from the Congress displayed indifference about Katchatheevu island as if they did not care and gave away Indian fishermen's rights despite legal views to the contrary.

Citing details of the agreements between India and Sri Lanka first in 1974 and then in 1976, he said a recurring theme is the indifference shown by the central government and prime ministers of the day about the territory of India.

Meanwhile, senior Congress leader P Chidambaram has said that Katchatheevu was ceded to Sri Lanka to maintain good relations and to save the lives of lakhs of Tamils.

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Chidambaram, a former Union Home Minister, wondered why the Prime Minister was raking up an issue that was settled in 1974.

That year, the Indira Gandhi government, to maintain good relations with Sri Lanka and to help lakhs and lakhs of Tamils there, negotiated with the island nation's government.

Following negotiations, a settlement was made on Katchatheevu, a very small island of about 1.9 sq km, and India acknowledged Katchatheevu as belonging to Sri Lanka, he said.

In return, six lakh Tamils were allowed to come to India.

"They have come here, their families are here, they have got full freedom, they are breathing free air. Their children and grandchildren are here. The issue was closed 50 years ago," Chidambaram said. PTI Corr NSA AKJ NSA NSA

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