Modi Criticizes Opposition Over 1974 Island Cession to Sri Lanka

New Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sparked controversy by criticizing the main opposition party, Indian National Congress, for relinquishing control of an island to Sri Lanka during its tenure five decades ago. This move is seen as an attempt to woo voters in Tamil Nadu, a southern state where his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has struggled to make significant inroads.

According to Kashmir Media Service, Modi accused the Congress and its regional ally, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), of neglecting Tamil Nadu’s interests, particularly concerning the fishermen’s rights in the context of Katchatheevu island. The island’s cession has long been a sore point in Tamil Nadu, lying in the Palk Strait that separates India and Sri Lanka, an area frequently marred by fishing disputes.

With an eye on the upcoming elections, Modi aims to leverage this historical grievance to challenge the DMK’s dominance in Tamil Nadu and to bolster the BJP’s presence in a region historically resistant to the party’s nationalist rhetoric. In the 2019 parliamentary elections, the BJP failed to secure any seats from Tamil Nadu, a state known for its economic prosperity and as a hub for global companies like Amazon and IBM.

The controversy resurfaced after BJP officials unearthed documents under the Right to Information Act detailing the 1974 agreement between India and Sri Lanka, which was facilitated by then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and her father, Jawaharlal Nehru, before her. These documents have fueled the BJP’s narrative that the Congress-led government compromised Indian interests.

India’s Foreign Minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, emphasized the public’s right to understand the circumstances surrounding the 1974 agreement and the concession of Katchatheevu island. However, when probed about India’s current stance on reclaiming the island, Jaishankar indicated that the issue is pending before India’s Supreme Court, without disclosing the Modi government’s efforts over the past decade to address this contentious legacy.

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