AA Edit | Ferry revives link to Lanka

The Asian Age.

Opinion, Edit

It is making history in that the ferry, reintroduced after four decades, shows that the two communities can move ahead

Cheriyapani, a ferry which will run between Nagapattinam (India) and Kankesanthurai (Sri Lanka), during its flagging off ceremony, Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023. External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar digitally flagged off the ferry service. (PTI Photo)

The launch of a ferry service from Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu to Kankesanthurai in northern Sri Lanka makes and remakes history at the same time. The high-speed ferry, being operated by the Shipping Corporation of India with a capacity of 150 passengers, covers the distance of about 60 NM (110 km) in approximately 3.5 hours. It will offer an easier, faster and cheaper way for the people of the two countries to cross the Palk Strait.

It is remaking history because the two countries which have been historically connected have had a love-hate relationship in the last four to five decades over the treatment of the Lankan Tamils by the majority population there. The island nation has gone through turbulent times in this period, and it got reflected in its relationship with India, too.

The direct travel link between India’s south and Sri Lanka’s north has a history of more than 100 years, starting with the launch of a train-cum-steamer service in 1914. The ‘Boat Mail’ would start its journey from Egmore station and go up to Dhanuskodi, from where the passengers would board a steamer that would sail to Colombo. It got disrupted when the railway line that ran up to Dhanuskodi was washed away in a cyclone in 1964. The ferry service was stopped in the 1980s when the internal strife in Sri Lanka was at its peak. Now, the link is back on track, albeit in a different way.

It is making history in that the ferry, reintroduced after four decades, shows that the two communities can move ahead instead of getting stuck in the bitterness of the past. It is also a reflection of the goodwill that has been created by both the nations among their peoples. That India stood by its neighbour in every sense of the term when it was hit by a financial meltdown and helped it steady itself must also have played a role in the new development.

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi pointed out, the ferry service brings alive all those historical and cultural connections. The neighbours must see to it that the ferry helps further strengthen them. 

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