A ferry tale from the neighbourhood - Hindustan Times
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A ferry tale from the neighbourhood

ByHT Editorial
Oct 16, 2023 11:25 AM IST

Ferry service between Nagapattinam, Tamil Nadu, and Kankesanthurai, Sri Lanka, launched to increase connectivity.

The launch of a ferry service between Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu and Kankesanthurai near Jaffna in Sri Lanka on Saturday is in step with the view in New Delhi and Colombo to increase connectivity between the two neighbours. Nagapattinam is a convenient port for traders as well as pilgrims travelling to towns in the Cauvery delta, such as Chidambaram. It follows the start of direct flights between Delhi and Colombo in 2015 and between Chennai and Jaffna in 2019. This ferry was discontinued 40 years ago when ethnic tensions in Sri Lanka escalated into a military conflict. Though the conflict ended in 2009, bilateral relations continued to be overdetermined by the Tamil political question. In recent years the emphasis has shifted from securing the political rights of Tamils to material concerns, including the rebuilding of physical infrastructure in post-war Sri Lanka. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, on Saturday, mentioned grid connection, pipeline and economic corridor besides housing projects, cultural centres and hospitals in Sri Lanka as avenues for cooperation between the two countries. Ties between the two countries firmed up when India responded swiftly to Colombo’s need for credit and essential goods in the aftermath of economic and political upheavals last year.

Tamil Nadu to start ferry service from Nagapattinam to Sri Lanka from tomorrow (Photo by Twitter/UpdatesChennai) PREMIUM
Tamil Nadu to start ferry service from Nagapattinam to Sri Lanka from tomorrow (Photo by Twitter/UpdatesChennai)

The launch of a ferry service between Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu and Kankesanthurai near Jaffna in Sri Lanka on Saturday is in step with the view in New Delhi and Colombo to increase connectivity between the two neighbours. Nagapattinam is a convenient port for traders as well as pilgrims travelling to towns in the Cauvery delta, such as Chidambaram. It follows the start of direct flights between Delhi and Colombo in 2015 and between Chennai and Jaffna in 2019. This ferry was discontinued 40 years ago when ethnic tensions in Sri Lanka escalated into a military conflict. Though the conflict ended in 2009, bilateral relations continued to be overdetermined by the Tamil political question. In recent years the emphasis has shifted from securing the political rights of Tamils to material concerns, including the rebuilding of physical infrastructure in post-war Sri Lanka. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, on Saturday, mentioned grid connection, pipeline and economic corridor besides housing projects, cultural centres and hospitals in Sri Lanka as avenues for cooperation between the two countries. Ties between the two countries firmed up when India responded swiftly to Colombo’s need for credit and essential goods in the aftermath of economic and political upheavals last year.

India can no longer view its relations with Sri Lanka exclusively through the Tamil prism considering the churn in the Indian Ocean region. Beijing has been seeking to expand its influence in the island nation through its Belt and Road Initiative. The presence of Chinese vessels at Sri Lankan ports has been a security concern for India. In this context, Delhi’s Neighbourhood First is a step in the right direction to contain Beijing’s play in India’s backyard. Neighbours can respect each other’s concerns and build on the advantages bestowed by geography and history.

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