A ferry service between India and Sri Lanka was operated between Dhanushkodi in Tamil Nadu and Thalaimannar in Sri Lanka, over a distance of 30 nautical miles. After the 1964 cyclone destroyed infrastructure at Dhanushkodi, the service was operated from Rameswaram. In 1984, the Union government suspended the service due to the rise of ethnic conflict in the island nation. In more recent years, the TN government has been looking at a fresh site at Rameswaram to resume operations.
The project, in essence, is seen as a reflection of India seeking to up its stakes in the economic progress of the Northern Province of Sri Lanka, after the end of the civil war in the island nation. Dredging work at the KKS Harbour was undertaken and completed by the Dredging Corporation of India, a public sector undertaking of the Government of India, to support domestic and regional commerce.
The Port has the unique advantage of being serviced by four national highways and rail connectivity to major cities. The 56 nautical miles distance between MARG Karaikal Port and the KKS Port in Jaffna means only a few hours of travel.
What are the expected outcomes?
Reduced travel time, easy and cheap travel alternative, enhanced economic activities between the two countries and smooth connectivity for the pilgrims of both countries.
What has India done so far?
Dredging work at the KKS Harbour in Jaffna was undertaken and completed by the Dredging Corporation of India, a public sector undertaking of the Government of India, to support domestic and regional commerce. Due to its closeness, KKS Harbour is considered strategically important to India. After undertaking wreck removal works, India provided grant funding for dredging of the harbour and the approach channel.
The flagship programme of the Ministry, implemented through the Sagarmala Development Company Limited (SDCL) envisages promoting port-led development in the country. The purpose of the environment-friendly ferry service to be offered based on localised demand is to create a supplementary mode of transportation which will be beneficial for daily commuters and tourists’ movement, bring about savings in terms of both cost and time for the users alongside reducing carbon footprint.
Sri Lanka and India enjoy strong bilateral and trade ties. The two countries enjoy a functioning free trade agreement and is closely connected by strong maritime and aviation links. In such a backdrop, the proposed ferry service would further boost trade ties between the two countries. Indian businesses/investors could therefore confidently explore business/investment opportunities in Sri Lanka and vice versa. Also, foreign businesses looking at doing business with India could explore the possibility of setting up base in Sri Lanka in order to engage in business with India using the preferential treatment enjoyed by the island.