A Contentious Islet

Much like Rudyard Kipling’s often (partially, and thus erroneously) quoted line “...East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet...”, so too it seems New Delhi and Chennai will never see eye to eye on Sri Lanka.

The widely divergent views on the island neighbour were further widened by the attorney-general’s opinion that Katchatheevu island, ceded to Sri Lanka by India in 1974, cannot be retrieved unless there is action by the armed forces. This may not go down well with those who sympathise with the cause of the Tamil Nadu fishermen, who are frequently arrested for getting close to the island for a better catch.

Political opinions cannot, however, change the principles of sovereignty on which the A-G’s opinion is based. Jayalalithaa’s opposition to the ceding of the island on a point of law about an enabling constitutional amendment not having been made to back the ceding of the islet does not seem to cut much ice 40 years after the physical cession.

The Supreme Court has seen it fit to toss the ball back at the political establishment, whose foreign policy would be defined by the larger view from the national capital of the need to balance the strategic outlook on Sri Lanka, which is being wooed by China as the island itself sits like a sentinel to the trade routes traversing the Indian Ocean. The top court’s recommendation on a fresh plea to the government to look into issues of the arrests and compensation to Tamil Nadu’s fishermen should be welcomed even if the problem has defied a solution for a long time now.

(The Asian Age)

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