China Factor: Katchateevu and Indo-US alliance against Sri Lanka


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Jun 17, 2009
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China Factor: Katchateevu and Indo-US alliance against Sri Lanka

Washington, D.C. 08 February (
"The United States cannot afford to lose Sri Lanka" was what the December 2009 report of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee authored by the then chairman of the committee and now President Obama's secretary of state John Kerry said.

Last week, an official of the US State Department told this writer that 'his shop' has got the wind that the Chinese military is expected to descend on the Katchatheevu island, conceded by the then Indira Gandhii government in 1974 to Sri Lanka's legitimate custody.

The island mid-way between India's southern tip and Sri Lanka's north has entered high drama these days in Tamil Nadu political scene bringing pressure on the Union Government to retrieve the Island which Tamil Nadu political leaders say is legitimately owned by India.

Having India's Union government appraised about possible Chinese 'entry' to Katchatheevu by the State Department according to this official, India's external affairs minister Salman Khurshid made her neighboring nations, which includes Sri Lanka, known that "India is keeping an eye on strategic rival China's involvement in infrastructure projects in India's immediate neighborhood. In the Indian parliament on Wednesday February 5 he revealed the countries as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Maldives and Pakistan.

He said China has been showing "more than the normal interest" in Indian Ocean affairs and its "intentions" are being closely monitored.

The external affairs minister was responding to a Calling Attention Motion on recent attacks on Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy, moved by T.R. Baalu of DMK.

Airing concerns over the plight of Indian fishermen, Baalu said that when an Indo-Sri Lanka agreement was inked in 1974 on the Katchatheevu Islands, which falls in the Palk Strait and falls in Sri Lankan territory, the then external affairs minister Swaran Singh had said the rights of fishing and navigation have been safeguarded.

Under the agreement, Indian fishermen can rest and dry their nets during fishing in international waters.

Baalu claimed that in 1976 the Indian fishermen's rights were affected when secretaries of India and Sri Lanka exchanged two sets of letters. "The letters became part and parcel of the agreement without taking parliament and the state government into confidence... it is a blow to the fishermen," he said.
India's external affairs minister Salman Khurshid

The Katchatheevu island fell within Sri Lankan territorial waters when the maritime boundary was redrawn in 1974 following an agreement between the then prime ministers of the two countries.

The DMK leader asked the government to revisit the agreement on Katchatheevu and step up patrolling in the waters to protect Indian fishermen from attacks by the Sri Lankan Navy.

India's external affairs minister ruled out revisiting of the pact, saying "we cannot go back on the solemn agreement between two governments". Khurshid said Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao is currently in Colombo and the issues relating to fishermen will be discussed.

It has been reported to Asian Tribune that both the Center and Tamil Nadu are concerned about the possible Chinese 'entry' to Katchatheevu and they have taken up the issue of the Indian fishermen to border on the 'China Factor'.

The 'China Factor' in South Asia, most importantly in Sri Lanka since the 'internal' defeat of the separatist Tamil Tiger movement in May 2009, was foremost in the mind of the US State Department but intensified in recent years as America developed a 'strategic partnership' with India first initiated by the former Bush administration.

In recent months, according to the state department official, the United States and India both found themselves 'on the same page' on internal issues of Sri Lanka when the possible Chinese descent to the Island of Katchatheevu emerged.

The State Department, according to inside source, alerted India way back early last year about the 'Chinese Interests' in Sri Lanka's Katchatheevu Island possibly for a military facility. The source added that India's sudden departure supporting Sri Lanka at the UNHRC in Geneva in March-2013-resolution would have been due to this vital factor though the issue, according to Asian Tribune understanding, was not raised with the Sri Lankan authorities.

These developments have culminated to the extent to which the United States and Indian governments working closely teaming up to give Sri Lanka 'the message' at Geneva this March.

But John Kerry who was the then chairman of the US Senate Foreign Affairs Committee in authoring the December 2009 report on Sri Lanka had the insight to visualize what was coming ahead.
The report cautioned not to 'let Sri Lanka go out of the US orbit'.

The report, a bipartisan endeavor on Sri Lanka was a thorough review of the failed U.S. policies and approach toward Sri Lanka in recent years and recommends that the U.S. needs to adopt a fresh approach to this South Asian nation declaring "the U.S. Government has invested relatively little in the economy or the security sector in Sri Lanka, instead focusing more on IDPs and civil society. As a result, Sri Lanka has grown politically and economically isolated from the West."

The report shared by the Senate Committee chairman Democratic Party's John F. Kerry and the committee's ranking member Republican Richard G. Lugar further observes: "This strategic drift will have consequences for U.S. interests in the region. Along with our legitimate humanitarian and political concerns, U.S. policymakers have tended to underestimate Sri Lanka's geostrategic importance for American interests. Sri Lanka is located at the nexus of crucial maritime trading routes in the Indian Ocean connecting Europe and the Middle East to China and the rest of Asia."

The Kerry-Lugar report very firmly advocated "The United States cannot afford to 'lose' Sri Lanka."
The report recommends the United States to move away from the position it has taken regarding Sri Lanka in this manner: "Sri Lanka's strategic importance to the United States, China, and India is viewed by some as a key piece in a larger geopolitical dynamic, what has been referred to as a new ''Great Game.'' While all three countries share an interest in securing maritime trade routes, the United States has invested relatively few economic and security resources in Sri Lanka, preferring to focus instead on the political environment. Sri Lanka's geostrategic importance to American interests has been neglected as a result."

The Asian Tribune has been appraised by reliable sources that the Indo-US close corporation on issues since the May 2009 internal defeat of the Tamil Tigers such as accountability to incidents that involved the military during the final months of the battle to defeat the separatists, alleged violation of IHL and IHRL, civilian deaths, and reconciliation was cemented due to the 'China Factor', and now the reports reaching Delhi and Washington of imminent Chinese military presence in the Island of Katchatheevu.

Katchatheevu, a 285 acre islet according to recent Tamil Nadu declarations was historically a part of Ramnad Raja's Zamindari, the present day Ramanathapuram district of Tamil Nadu.

The State Government of Tamil Nadu says Katchatheevu was under the Ramanathapuram zamin's control and it was given to a Dutch company on lease. The land became part of Madras Presidency after Independence, according to historical evidence, land survey records, copper plaques and official documents. The islet had survey number 1250 in Ramanathapuram in Tamil Nadu, according to official records.

In or around 1921, Tamil Nadu politicians say, Sri Lanka started claiming territorial rights over the island without any justification and notwithstanding such claims, it continued to be part of India.

According to bilateral agreements between the two nations signed in 1974 and 1976, Katchatheevu became part of Sri Lanka.

What motivated Indian external affairs minister to declare in the Indian parliament last Wednesday was that China has conceived its 'Pearl Garland' idea, solely aimed at weakening the sovereign and territorial integrity of India. Under its 'Pearl Garland,' scheme China has now established basis in Kedar in Pakistan, Hang Hi in Miyanmar (Burma), in Maldives Island and in Hambantota in Sri Lanka. Lastly, India believes, and the US has been alerted, that China has set its foot in Katchatheevu Island also. Pilgrims who went to Katchatheevu Island on the annual St.Anthony's Church festival have reported seeing Chinese Army Tents. Few foreign media and establishments have also unfolded the presence of Chinese Army men in Katchatheevu Island.
It is this perceived notion that India and the United States are 'on the same page' to handle Sri Lanka at Geneva this March.

Whether the United States heeds to Kerry-Lugar advice is another matter as both America's foreign policy and national security/defense are strictly controlled by Obama's White House with Dr. Susan Rice at the helm working closely with the president's chief of staff Donald Macdonough, the latter's close colleague and ally Nisha Desai Biswal handling the South/Central Asia portfolio.

- Asian Tribune –

China Factor: Katchateevu and Indo-US alliance against Sri Lanka | Asian Tribune

Free Karma

Senior Member
Oct 3, 2013
Katchatheevu :(

Not sure what to make of this, because both sides very badly want a piece of the weaker sub continental countries, they seem to be trying hard in SL and also in B'desh,


Regular Member
Jun 21, 2013
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What I have been saying for months has finally come out of hiding. Chinese are in Kachchatheevu. India lost a golden opportunity of creating a separate Eelam for Eelam Tamils... The North and East of the Island would have been sealed off to the Chinese intentions and the south and west are well within India's reach. We would have got the strategically inportant Kankesan thurai and Thirikonamalai Harbours for deploying our Naval assets and would have made the Bay of Bengal a Indian Lake with Vizag - Thirikonamalai - Andamans Naval Bases.

Golden opportunity lost.


Regular Member
May 19, 2013
As china is raising old controversies and laying claims over the islands belonging to Japan and other countries, similarly India can also reopen the debate and lay its claim on the Island and capture it. China cannot use arms because it is a bilateraly issue between India and Sri Lanka

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