On a day when allegations continued to resonate that Colombo had pushed through an Adani Group proposal for a wind energy farm in the north-west of the country at the behest of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Sri Lankan cabinet green lighted two long pending connectivity proposals — flights from Jaffna to Tiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu, and a ferry service from Kankesanthurai in Jaffna to Karaikal in Puducherry.
The connectivity projects have been part of India’s wishlist for long, to build more people to people linkages between the two countries in a way that will also contribute to economic activity in Sri Lanka’s Tamil north, the main theatre of the long civil war from which the area’s recovery has been slow. For Sri Lanka, tourist traffic from south India could contribute valuable foreign exchange to its beleaguered economy.
The idea of reviving transport links between Tamil Nadu and northern Sri Lanka — there used to be flights and a ferry service until 1970s — was mooted after the war ended in 2009, but the response from Colombo was tepid. It was in November 2019 that Palaly airport, which was earlier a military airfield, opened for international civilian flights for the first time with thrice weekly Jaffna-Chennai ATR flights operated by Alliance Air. However, the airport shut down in months amid pandemic.
Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda, who is also a Jaffna district parliamentarian, said the two new connections, would bring a considerable number of pilgrims from south India for temple tourism in northern Sri Lanka.