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Monday, August 20, 2012

Japanese activists raise National flag in Senkaku islands – something on Katchatheevu

Strained relations and tension across the border is nothing new in International arena.  Not many in India,  outside Tamilnadu would know or even care to know of a conflict of Indian territory, a place ceded by the Govt of India and against which the State Government has filed a petition in Supreme Court seeking the declaration of the 1974 and 1976 agreements between India and Sri Lanka on ceding  as unconstitutional.  The many instances of firing upon and injuries to Indian fishermen from Tamilnadu has created a political storm and this island has assumed political significance.

In June 2011, the  State Assembly adopted a unanimous resolution, calling upon the State Revenue Department to implead itself in a case filed by Chief Minister and AIADMK  in the Supreme Court for retrieval of island.  It is alleged that consequent to the ceding of the island to Sri Lanka, hundreds of the fishermen were killed in the shootings of the Sri Lankan Navy.

Elsewhere, tensions between Japan and China increased close to boiling point after Japanese activists scramble onto disputed island and raise national flag.  Reports suggest that the dramatic assault by a dozen Japanese nationalists infuriated China, which issued an official protest to Tokyo and it  sparked a number of anti-Japanese rallies across China

Around ten right-wing Japanese activists swam ashore the main island in the Senkaku archipelago and raised the national flag. They carried out the stunt to call on China to give up its claim to the islands, which are under Japanese control.  The island now in news where the Japanese national flag was raised is - Uotsuri island, one of the islands of Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese, in the East China Sea.  The uninhabited islands, which the Chinese call Diaoyu and Taiwan also lays a claim to, are hotly disputed because they lie close to rich gas fields and are situated in a vital shipping lane in the East China Sea.  The Senkaku Islands  also known as the Diaoyu Islands are a group of uninhabited islands located roughly due east of mainland China, northeast of Taiwan, west of Okinawa Island, and north of the southwestern end of the Ryukyu Islands.  The administration of these places were transferred from United States to Japan in 1971, ownership of the islands by Japan has been disputed by the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC, also known as Taiwan).

The activists, who belong to a group whose name translates as ‘Hang in there, Japan’, travelled  to the islands with 150 other people in a flotilla, which had ostensibly set out to commemorate Japanese citizens who died nearby in World War II.  After swimming ashore the protesters clambered onto rocks and raised the Japanese flag.  Infuriated, Beijing issued an  immediate rebuke as thousands of Chinese took to the streets in cities across the country in protest at the stunt.  The Chinese state-run Xinhua news agency said anti-Japanese rallies were also held in Shenzhen, Qingdao and Harbin.  Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gan had warned even before the flotilla set out that ‘any unilateral action taken by Japan on the Diaoyu Islands is illegal and invalid.’

The islands are important to Japan, China and Taiwan because they lie on a vital shipping lane, but more importantly they are surrounded by deposits of gas.  Officially, the Japanese flotilla set out to commemorate the Japanese who died near the islands in World War II, but diplomats in Tokyo and Beijing were convinced that was just a cover story. The real reason for the landing, it was being widely accepted, was to counter a similar landing by Chinese activists last week. They had managed to get ashore, despite a Japanese coastguard vessel firing a water cannon at a boat carrying the group. The Chinese activists were deported shortly after landing on the island – but it is believed it was their action that resulted in the pro-Japanese group arranging their own assault.

The island in dispute between India and Sri Lanks is ‘katcha theevu’ consisting of 285 acres (1.15 km2)  given by India in 1974 on a conditional basis.  This island is situated in Rameswaram Talai Mannar sector – 11 nautical miles North East from Rameswaram.  The island is  important for fishing grounds used by fishers from both the countries. Under the treaty agreement of 1974, Indian fishermen  were allowed to dry their nets and do religious observance.  This tensions and the killings of Tamil fishermen have created continuous trouble seeking abrogation of the handing over of the island.  When there were continuous instances of fishermen being shot at, boats being damaged, nets damaged and persons injured, the Tamilnadu State Assembly in 2011 adopted a unanimous resolution, calling upon the State Revenue Department to implead itself in a case filed by Chief Minister.  The petition, filed in August 2008, sought the declaration of the 1974 and 1976 agreements between India and Sri Lanka on ceding of Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka unconstitutional. The resolution, moved by the Chief Minister, cited the Supreme Court's ruling in 1960 in the Berubari case that any agreement on the cession of Indian territory to another country should be ratified by Parliament through an amendment of the Constitution. However, contrary to the verdict of the Supreme Court, Katchatheevu was ceded, under the 1974 and 1976 agreements, to Sri Lanka without the approval of two Houses of Parliament. 

Waters are also troubled [fishing in troubled waters - they call] and even uninhabited islands are not peaceful and can cause strained relations between countries.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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