Nehru was inclined to hand over Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka: K Annamalai

NewsDrum Desk
Updated On
New Update

Coimbatore: Quoting from what he called official 'file notings' of the Jawaharlal Nehru era obtained through RTI, Tamil Nadu BJP President K Annamalai on Sunday alleged the first Prime Minister of the nation was inclined to give away Katchatheevu island to Sri Lanka despite opinion that endorsed India's sovereignty.


Speaking to reporters, Annamalai said the ceding of Katchatheevu was a "mystery, who gave it and under what circumstances, this was a mystery," and the vexatious issue continues to resonate in Tamil Nadu since then. Nehru had termed the issue "a small matter" and that the first PM had no hesitation in ceding it to the neighbouring country, the BJP leader alleged.

He said though the issue was much debated, related documents were not available in public domain and all the connected information remained classified for a very long time.

The ceding of the island in 1974 seriously affected Tamil Nadu fishermen and it also led to politics over the travails of fishers, he said. Hence, Annamalai said he sought information using RTI from the Ministry of External Affairs.


When he sought the documents, the Ministry of External Affairs shared "two documents that are so far not available in public domain." One was on the 1968 Meeting of the Informal Consultative Committee and the other was on discussion between the then Foreign Secretary and then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi in 1974 on Katchatheevu issue.

"Congress party at that time had done conspiracy and ceded Katchatheevu," he alleged.

In 1968, debates were held in Parliament following allegations of a "secret deal" between the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and her Sri Lankan counterpart Dudley Senanayake that envisaged ceding of Katchatheevu to the island nation.


Katchatheevu is very important for the country, and there was no dispute at all about India's sovereignty over that island. The Raja of Ramnad (present Ramanathapuram district in southern Tamil Nadu) had uninterrupted rights from 1875 to 1948 over that place.

Following its independence in 1948, Sri Lanka began advancing claims over Katchatheevu. In the beginning, India's stand was that it had sovereignty over Katchatheevu and the island belonged to it.

Later, the first PM Jawaharlal Nehru in 1961 in a "file noting" (10 May, 1961) said he attached no importance at all to this little island and that he had no hesitation in giving up India's claims to it.


Various high-ranking officials had said that India had a good case over Katchatheevu. The then Attorney General MC Setalvad on 19 October 1958 opined that "India has sovereignty" over Katchatheevu. However, overruling such valid opinions, Nehru said in 1961 that he attached no importance to the "tiny piece of island." Till 1948, there was no dispute. But, Sri Lanka gradually began making repeated claims and started asserting its sovereignty over Katchatheevu.

They were for use of the island for 'shooting practice' of its Navy and Air Force.

"This is the first part that has been published in Times of India (March 31). Tomorrow, the second part will be released. It will feature Karunanidhi's discussion with the then Foreign Secretary." Annamalai alleged Karunanidhi betrayed Tamil Nadu on the issue.