Even as the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal project remains caught in a legal wrangle, the navy is keeping its fingers crossed that it materialises. The strategic advantage that comes bundled with a continuous navigable route around the Indian peninsula has the navy drooling.
The proposed shipping passage linking the Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar between India and Sri Lanka will turbocharge the navy’s capabilities for cross-coast deployment.
Reduced steaming distances will allow the navy to redeploy its warships from the eastern seaboard to the western coast 16-18 hours faster once the 167-km long deepwater channel is ready. The existing waterway is too shallow for the movement of naval vessels and other ships.
The Rs 2,427-crore channel will cut sailing time from the eastern to western coast by 780 km, as ships will not have to traverse around Sri Lanka. A navy official told HT on Monday. “There will be tremendous benefits for the navy when this project comes to fruition. It will multiply our capabilities to wage war on either coast.”
The navy faced the challenge of accelerating cross-coast deployment during the 1999 Kargil war. The same daunting task stared the navy in the face during Operation Parakram as part of the military’s contingency plans for force posturing in the Arabian Sea.
The BJP and the Sangh Parivar view the Sethusamudram project as the ultimate assault on their faith since the current proposal envisages cutting through a section of Ram Setu believed to have been constructed by Lord Ram.
However, the navy would like the naysayers to focus on the strategic advantages of the project rather than heighten the rhetoric against it.