Sri Lanka has submitted a proposal to India on renovating and rehabilitating parts of the strategic Kankasanthurai (KKS) harbour in Jaffna in north Sri Lanka.
The Sri Lankan Ports Authority (SPLA) recently submitted a list of ``what the Sri Lankan government expects at KKS port’’ to officials of the Indian High Commission in Colombo. The meeting was attended by the SLPA chairperson P Wickrama.
The port is located at the northern tip of Sri Lanka in Jaffna, a high security zone. The Sri Lankan army captured it from the separatist LTTE in 1995 and the armed forces continue to have heavy presence in the area.
For India, presence at KKS would be important because of its proximity to its southern coast. India is also entrenched in the Trincomalee harbour in east Sri Lanka. In the south, China has got ahead and is building the ambitious Hambantota port project in President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s home district.
It was learnt that India for one could help the SLPA in salvaging wrecks of ships which sank off the KKS coast. SLPA officials estimate that at least half-dozen ships and boats belonging to Sri Lankan Navy and the LTTE had sunk during fighting in the area.
The breakwater at the KKS port – currently only used by ships from SLN and government – was severely damaged during the tsunami. But the government had postponed the repair because of the security situation in north and north-east Sri Lanka.
"Besides repairing the breakwater, Indian expertise could also help in dredging the sea bed off the KKS port and rehabilitating the jetties," Agil Hewageegana, senior SLPA engineer told HT.
He said that India could help build ship yards and roads in the area. ``There are roads in the area; but they need repair. Yards have to be build as well,’’ he added.
It was learnt that both the Netherlands and India had approached the SLPA a few years ago to renovate the port. But over the years, discussions with the Dutch died a ``natural death.’’
Diplomatic sources in Colombo said India was studying the proposal.
The port could also prove strategic for reopening the KKS cement factory, which had closed down because of the fighting with the LTTE.