In a politically significant move, a shipload of essential food items from India was heading towards Jaffna in north Sri Lanka on Thursday, to relieve the food shortage there.
According to the Sri Lankan Ministry of Social Welfare, the Multi-Purpose Cooperative Societies would distribute the grocery imported by the government of Sri Lanka.
The import of dhal, sugar, salt and other necessities from Chennai was arranged by the Minister of Social Welfare, KN Douglas Devananda, during his recent visit to India.
The food items would bring great relief to the 600,000 Tamils of Jaffna during the current festive season.
They had been facing a severe shortage of food and medicines after the A9 highway, linking Jaffna with South Sri Lanka, was blocked by the Sri Lankan government for security reasons at Muhamalai in August 2006.
The government of Sri Lanka wanted India to supply Jaffna, but there was reluctance on the part of India to do so directly, because of the absence of a security guarantee from the LTTE.
The LTTE had been of the view that any import of food from India would only result in the postponement of the opening of the A9 highway, which for it was also a military as well as a political necessity.
The government suggested the use of the sea route instead, but the LTTE said that it would not allow it.
However, government ships had been plying between Trincomalee and Jaffna with food.
According to the Sri Lankan military spokesman, Brig Prasad Samarsinghe, the supply of food from the south by sea, had already met 85 per cent of Jaffna's needs by the end of December 2006.
The realisation of the long-standing plan to bring food from India directly to Jaffna could be attributed to the gathering movement in Tamil Nadu to alleviate the suffering of the Tamils in Jaffna.
The Centre and the Tamil Nadu government had no option but to do all that they could to reach food to Jaffna. And the LTTE might have had no option but to allow the import.