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Home > News > Report

Jaya blocks the bridge to Lanka

George Iype in Kochi | July 25, 2003 19:35 IST

It was meant to be a bridge for peace, trade, travel and industry. Thebridge connecting India to Sri Lanka over the Palk Strait was also touted as a fine wayto improverelations between the two neighbours.

But the fate of the bridge --estimated to cost $500 million -- that was to link the western tip of Talaimannar in Sri Lankato Dhanuskodi in Tamil Nadu now hangs in the balance thanks tostiff opposition to the project by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa.

On Thursday, she wrote to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee asking him to drop the idea of an Indo-Lanka bridge, for it would 'jeopardizenational security.'

Jayalalithaa said her main fear was that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the guerrilla force fighting for a separate homeland in Sri Lanka, would bring its terrorism to Tamil Nadu and India.

Senior government officials in Chennai believe Jayalalithaa has reasons to be worried over the proposed bridge because Tamil Nadu is home toTamil refugees from Sri Lanka. According to government estimates,some 200,000 refugees livein Tamil Nadu. The majority stayin camps. The rest live on their own. Besides these two categories, there aredetained Tamil militantsinTamil Nadu jails.

A home ministry official in Tamil Nadu pointed out that Jayalalithaaopposed the bridge project because a recentstate police report saidopening a land link between India and Sri Lanka would pose unprecedented security risks for Tamil Nadu.

"We do not want another resumption of terrorist activities in Tamil Nadu. The chief minister has asked Prime Minister Vajpayee why India should go in for such a bridge when the ethnic problem in Sri Lanka is still a burning issue," the official told

The Tamil Nadu government has notyetgot a response to Jayalalithaa's letter to the prime minister. But the official said "the Vajpayee government cannot go ahead with the bridge project without permission from the Tamil Nadu government."

The proposal to build a bridge over the Palk Straitfirst came up during the signing of theIndia-Sri Lankan agreement by thenIndian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and thenSri Lankan president J R Jayewardene on July 29, 1987. Butethnic fighting in Sri Lanka and the failed Indian Peace Keeping Force mission to the island nationsealed theidea.

The proposal got a freshlease of life duringSri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe's visit to India last year. AtWickramasinghe's behest, the Board of Investment of Sri Lankasubmitted the bridge proposal to the Vajpayee government.

At the end of Wickramasinghe's visit, India and Sri Lanka issued a statement endorsingthe proposal.

More reports from Tamil Nadu
Read about: Cases Against J Jayalalitha | Cauvery Water Dispute

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Read what others have to say:

Number of User Comments: 10

Sub: Sethu samudra

In national interest, solution is not to block the project but to come out with some calculated solution for expected problems.

Posted by Prabal Kansal

Sub: Welcome decision

sir, She had made a fine decision by opposing the same. First, the long pending Sethu Samudra project has to be completed and then we ...

Posted by srirajaganapathy

Sub: Bridge over Palk Strait

I really appreciate Chief Minister of Tamilnadu decision to oppose construction of bridge. Sri lanka does not want loose its maritime business nor our port ...

Posted by Naveen

Sub: Jaya blocks the bridge to Lanka

The people in other parts of the country say that Tamil Nadu is place of the the fools's paradise in the planet. Is it true ...

Posted by minian .palaniappan

Sub: Blocking the Infiltration

It was quite wise on the part of Jaya to have blocked the proposal and her fear is more than justified, atleast at this juncture. ...

Posted by sundhar



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