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India set to launch two-hour ferry service to Sri Lanka as regional integration takes root

New Delhi and Colombo are also working towards early resumption of ferry services between Rameshwaram and Talaimannar, and other mutually agreed places (Representational image courtesy: India's Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways)

The much-awaited passenger ferry service from Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu to Kankesanthurai port in Sri Lanka is ready to roll off soon, India’s Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways indicated Friday.

“India to Sri Lanka in just 2 hours!! MoPSW proudly launches Passenger Ferry Service from Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu, India to Kankesanthurai Port, Sri Lanka! This service ensures swift & efficient passenger travel and improve relationship between the two countries @MFA_SriLanka,” the ministry revealed in a social media post that was deleted late Friday afternoon.

While the information could have been inadvertently posted slightly ahead of the much-anticipated launch, plans have already been afoot to start the ferry service in the first half of October after completion of the preliminary work.

India Sri Lanka Ferry Service

It was during Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s visit to New Delhi this July that both countries agreed to passenger ferry services between Nagapattinam and KankeSanthurai.

In his meeting with Wickremesinghe, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had assured India’s full support for the same as by expanding passenger ferry services would benefit the people of both countries who will be able to travel at an affordable cost.

The vision document adopted after the meeting between the two leaders mentioned strengthening the economic partnership by accelerating mutual cooperation in maritime, air, energy and people-to-people connectivity.

The focus was also particularly on the northern Jaffna Peninsula and Trincomalee on the northeast coast of the country as PM Modi and Lankan President underlined the “cardinal importance” of promoting and strengthening connectivity in all its dimensions.

New Delhi and Colombo are also working towards early resumption of ferry services between Rameshwaram and Talaimannar, and other mutually agreed places.

After resuming Chennai-Jaffna flight connectivity from the Jaffna International Airport – rebuilt with Indian assistance – last December, both countries are also currently exploring air connectivity between Chennai and Trincomalee, Batticaloa and other destinations in Sri Lanka.

As reported by IndiaNarrative.com, a high-profile delegation led by Chairman of Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) Keith D Bernard visited the V O Chidambaranar Port Authority (VOC Port Authority) in Tuticorin in July to discuss establishing a robust networking system between the Colombo port and Tuticorin.

“Both the Colombo and Tuticorin ports, situated in the Indian Ocean region, hold strategic importance as key maritime trade hubs. Establishing a commercial shipping trade relationship between these ports presents numerous opportunities for collaboration and growth,” said Bernard during the trip.

Strategically located, Jaffna and Trincomalee are largely inhabited by Tamils and suffered massive devastation during the bloody Lankan civil war that lasted for more than 25 years.

Jaffna served as an important base for the Lankan military forces in the northern theatre during its long conflict with the LTTE.

Located in the heart of the Indian Ocean, Trincomalee harbour is the fifth largest natural harbour in the world with the Portuguese, Dutch, French, and English having fought many sea battles to conquer it.

India is also deeply engaged with Sri Lanka on the development of the Oil Tank Farm in Trincomalee, a mutually beneficial proposition that promises to assist Sri Lanka in building petroleum reserves and address supply and price volatility.

“The development of Trincomalee as an energy hub with the support of India is a crucial step towards Sri Lanka’s goal to elevate Trincomalee as a hub for industry and other economic activities,” said Wickremesinghe during his India visit.

“Prime Minister Modi and I believe that the construction of a multi-product petroleum pipeline from the Southern part of India to Sri Lanka will ensure an affordable and reliable supply of energy resources to Sri Lanka,” he mentioned.

In May, the Chief of the Air Staff of the Indian Air Force, Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari laid the foundation stone of India-Sri Lanka Friendship Auditorium at the Lanka Air Force Academy in Trincomalee that will be constructed under the 250 million LKR grant assistance by the Government of India (GOI), in line with India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy.

At the same time, India has also been associated with several development partnership projects in the war-torn peninsula of Jaffna. The iconic Jaffna Cultural Centre, the foundation stone of which was laid by Prime Minister Modi in 2015, was inaugurated this February.

INS Delhi at the Port of Trincomalee in January, earlier this year (Image courtesy: Twitter/@srilanka_navy)

Interestingly, Sri Lanka is also set to take over chair of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) from Bangladesh next week.

Foreign ministers of IORA, including Bangladesh, India, Iran, Mauritius, Malaysia and South Africa besides senior-level participation from Australia, Comoros, France, Indonesia, Kenya, Madagascar, Maldives, Mozambique, Oman, Seychelles, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Tanzania, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and Yemen (member countries) are expected to attend the 23rd IORA Council of Ministers which Sri Lanka is hosting on October 11.

China, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Russia, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States of America will participate in the event as dialogue partners.

According to the Lankan Foreign Ministry, the ministers will deliberate on ways to cooperate on six priority areas identified by the association, including trade and investment; maritime safety and security; fisheries management; disaster risk management; and, Blue Economy, among others.

Also Read: Riding on new connectivity wave, India and Sri Lanka focus big on island nation’s north