India, Sri Lanka finalizing plans to restart ferry service

India and Sri Lanka are ready to make way for better ties by resuming a ferry service from Kochi to Colombo.

“The ferry service is mooted between Kochi in Kerala to Colombo. We are finalising the modalities and working out if it would be purely a passenger service. To make it economically viable, we will include freight service,” a Ministry of External Affairs official said.

More than three decades ago, the shadow of the ethnic strife in the teardrop island had adversely impacted its ties with India. The two countries are linked via air, but the sea link from Chennai was severed after the 1983 ethnic cleansing of Tamils in Sri Lanka. Over 100,000 Tamil refugees had landed in Tamil Nadu, triggering a sympathy wave in the state.

In 2011, a ferry service was resumed between Thoothukudi in south Tamil Nadu to Colombo, but it was stopped due to less traffic.

There has been demand to revive the links between Tamil Nadu and the Tamil-speaking north and north-eastern part of Sri Lanka Jaffna and Trincomalee. “Considering the political sensitivities around the revival of the transport links, we would like to go one step at a time,” the official added.

Ferries are one of the cheapest modes of transport and will be within the framework of increasing connectivity under the BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) regional forum.

India has shared a volatile past with its maritime neighbour for sending the Indian Peace Keeping Force to the island nation to fight the LTTE. The conflict saw then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi being assassinated by the LTTE in 1991. (NIE)

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