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India’s Ex-Union Minister Yashwant Sinha Criticizes BJP’s Use of Katchatheevu Island as Election Issue

India’s former Union Minister, Yashwant Sinha, has criticized the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for making the Katchatheevu island an election issue ahead of the Lok Sabha polls without considering its implications on India-Sri Lanka relations.

The longstanding territorial and fishing rights dispute surrounding the Katchatheevu island has resurfaced, with the BJP and opposition parties engaged in verbal sparring.

Sinha, who held positions as India’s finance and external affairs minister, asserted that the island lies within Sri Lankan maritime boundaries.

Expressing dismay over the prime minister’s stance on the issue, Sinha emphasized that the Ministry of External Affairs consistently maintained that Katchatheevu belonged to Sri Lanka due to its geographical location.

He cautioned that raising this issue now could strain India’s relationship with Sri Lanka and questioned the feasibility of reclaiming the island through force.

Situated between Rameswaram in India and Sri Lanka, Katchatheevu was recognized as Sri Lankan territory in 1974 under the “Indo-Sri Lankan Maritime Agreement.” Sinha warned against raising sensitive issues during elections without considering their diplomatic ramifications.

Prime Minister Modi had criticized the Congress and DMK for ceding the islet in 1974, citing media reports that alleged the Congress negligently surrendered Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka.

Regarding the border situation in northern India, Sinha accused the government of misinforming the public, citing a parliamentary reply stating that China had occupied 38,000 square kilometers of Indian territory in Ladakh.

He dismissed claims that Article 370 of the Indian Constitution was abolished, asserting that it was already defunct and merely a symbolic gesture by the government.

Sinha also expressed skepticism towards government statistics, highlighting discrepancies in reporting compared to previous administrations. He criticized the government’s escalating borrowing, leading to a substantial increase in national debt and fiscal deficit.

A former IAS officer turned politician, Sinha parted ways with the BJP in 2018, citing concerns about the NDA government’s erosion of democratic institutions. In 2021, he joined the Trinamool Congress.

Source: PTI

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