Documents confirming SL’s ownership of Kach tabled

By Saman Indrajith

The Government yesterday tabled in Parliament the two agreements signed between India and Sri Lanka in 1974 and 1976 under which Sri Lanka’s sovereignty over the Kachchativu island was confirmed.

The agreements were tabled in response to a question raised by UNP MP Ravi Karunanayaka about various claims made by some Indian politicians asserting an Indian claim over the island.

"Kachchativu was not given or ceded to Sri Lanka. Therefore, the question of India officially giving up her claim on Kachchativu does not arise," External Affairs Minister G. L. Peiris said in response to the query from the UNP MP as to when India officially gave up the claim on the island.

Minister Peiris said that Sri Lanka established her claim to sovereignty over Kachchativu based on historical records since 1965, belonging to the Dutch East India Company and the British Colonial Government during negotiations between the two countries in 1974 on the "Maritime Boundary Agreement on the Historic waters in the Palk Bay and the Palk Straits.’

"Based on official correspondence, maps and specific legislation made by Ceylon in respect of the island, Sri Lanka was able to establish, through evidence, the regular exercise of administrative control over the island as well. Accordingly the 1974 agreement formally confirmed Sri Lanka’s sovereignty over this island,’ the Minister said.

Asked whether he had spoken to his Indian counterpart on this matter, Minister Peiris said that the 1974 and 1976 Agreements have clearly and conclusively established the maritime boundary between Sri Lanka and India and therefore the matter had never been raised by the Indian Government or by the Sri Lankan Government.

The Minister also said he was unable to speculate on the reasons for statements being made by various Indian political personalities trying to revive the Indian claim on Kachchativu island but said the Indian position on the matter was conveyed most recently by the Minister of External Affairs of that country in a statement to the Lok Sabha (Indian Parliament) on August 26, 2011 in which he stated that while Indian fishermen have access to visit the Island for rest, for drying nets and for the annual St. Anthony’s Festival, their rights do not cover fishing around Kachchativu island.

‘We will have to bear in mind the fact that as per the Agreements we have concluded with Sri Lanka in 1974 and 1976, Kachchativu Island lies on the Sri Lankan side of the Maritime Border," the Indian External Affairs Minister had said.

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