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Indian luxury trains connect Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo to Tamil-majority Jaffna in the north

Colombo-Jaffna train through Indian development assistance (Photo: Daily FT)

Sri Lanka launched an intercity luxury train service connecting capital Colombo with Kankesanthurai in Jaffna with Indian assistance.

Sri Lankan Minister of Transport Pavithra Wanniarachchi inaugurated the train service on Sunday as Indian Deputy High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Vinod K Jacob, joined in the celebrations.

The rail link was inaugurated at the same time Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was in Sri Lanka on a two-day visit. He visited the country to iron out the disharmony in relations over a fertiliser deal as well as to offer economic support to an ally reeling under a severe financial crisis.

The Indian High Commission in Colombo tweeted: "Powering the Sri Lanka railway infrastructure forward!! The train service launched today to the Northern Province highlights 2 key pillars of India's development partnership with #lka – infrastructure development and country-wide focus".

Wanniarachchi undertook the inaugural ride and thanked India for its support to Sri Lanka in infrastructure development and also during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Deputy High Commissioner Jacob highlighted that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has focused on strengthening ties with Sri Lanka under its ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy. He mentioned that External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar recently said that India would support Sri Lanka through its difficult times.

The 386-km long train service has been enabled under the Indian line of credit (LoC) facilitated to spur development in Sri Lanka. India's development funding in Sri Lanka is over $3.5 billion, of which $370 million are grant projects.

The trains have been supplied by Indian organisation RITES under the LoC. These will facilitate faster travel between the Western and the Northern Province. RITES is also supplying more passenger coaches while another Indian Company, IRCON is upgrading railway tracks between Maho-Anuradhapura-Omanthai.

India has taken up the modernisation of railways and creation of new railway infrastructure under its development portfolio in Sri Lanka.