No knowledge of sea bridge project: Sri Lankan Minister

Lakshman Kiriella

A few days after India’s Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari informed the Lok Sabha about a project to build a sea bridge and tunnel connecting Sri Lanka, his counterpart, Lakshman Kiriella, has said the matter has not been discussed with his government.

“We are not aware of this proposal,” Mr. Kiriella, Leader of House in Parliament, told The Hindu on Saturday.

Asked persistently whether the subject was raised with his government, the Minister said “not to my knowledge.” He hastened to add that he was not aware whether “private enquiries” were being made about the project.

According to Mr. Gadkari, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) was willing to fund a bridge-building project connecting Rameswaram to Talaimannar in Sri Lanka.

Project cost

The India-Sri Lanka connectivity project was estimated to cost about INR 24,000 crore.

When Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe visited New Delhi in September, Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussed the matter with him, Mr. Gadkari had said, adding that an agreement had been entered into with Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal for seamless flow of traffic and passenger vehicles.

Ever since India’s Ministers began making statements on the matter six months ago, the Sri Lanka’s Foreign Affairs Ministry has been saying that it had no information.

Many groups and parties here, especially those claiming to represent interests of Sinhalese-Buddhists, have expressed opposition to the project on the ground that this would not benefit Sri Lanka.

In August 2003, Mr. Wickremesinghe, who was Prime Minister then too, had talked of the bridge proposal as part of his idea of developing the South India-Sri Lanka sub-region as a single market that would provide more opportunities for the economic growth of both countries.

(Source: The Hindu)