Linking people

Linking people

India and Sri Lanka have done well to resume ferry services between the two countries. The service was suspended 28 years ago in the wake of the eruption of the armed insurgency in the island. That ferry was between Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu and Mannar in Sri Lanka’s Tamil dominated Northern Province. The new ferry service will ply between Tuticorin and Colombo. It will make travel between India and Sri Lanka cheaper. Hence, even the not so well-to-do in both countries can hope to make the journey. This will give a fillip to interaction at the level of the masses.

It is also expected to give a boost to tourism and trade. The ferry symbolises the huge transformation that has occurred in Sri Lanka’s security situation in the two years since the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the consequent end of the civil war. For almost three decades prior to that, the waters between India and Sri Lanka were dangerous. It was these waters that the Tigers crossed to come to the safe haven of Tamil Nadu, where their leaders and cadres trained, rested and purchased supplies. With the civil war spilling into the Palk Straits, travelling by boat for civilians was unsafe. Hence the suspension of the ferry. The revival of the service is a positive outcome of the end of the war.

The full potential of the ferry service can be realised only if the waters are truly safe. While the LTTE’s formidable navy is no more, the Sri Lankan Navy has been harassing, even killing, Indian Tamil fishermen and this has generated anger in Tamil Nadu’s coastal villages. Such an environment is not conducive to the plying of boats between the two countries. Besides, there has been a marked downslide in relations between Colombo and the Tamil Nadu government over the past month. The AIADMK government recently passed a resolution in the Assembly calling for economic sanctions against Sri Lanka on account of the treatment meted out to Tamils is in the island. Chief minister Jayalalitha has also demanded the suspension of the ferry service as her government was not consulted on the decision.

 The ferry has the potential to improve lives of people in Tamil Nadu’s coastal villages. It would be a pity if it should become a casualty of political point scoring by politicians on both sides of the straits.

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