Lankans Divided Over India’s Proposal for Palk Strait Bridge
COLOMBO:Sri Lankans are divided on the desirability of accepting an Indian proposal to construct a bridge across the Palk Strait to link Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu with Talaimannar in Lanka’s Tamil-speaking Northern Province.
The revival of the 2002 proposal to build a 32-km bridge is warmly welcomed by the Tamils of the Northern Province and Lankan experts on economic development. But it is bitterly opposed by South Lankan nationalists who have an atavistic fear of Indian domination if the sea separating the two countries is bridged. Tissa Devendra feared that “hosts of Dalits and depressed classes will pour into the North triggering a demographic catastrophe”. Walter de Silva warned that the bridge “will end our existence as a separate country.”
But Dr Shantha Hennayake, Professor of Geography at Pradeniya University, refuted the contention that the bridge will be a threat to the independence of Lanka. “It is a total misconception. It is based on the belief that the bridge will be a one-way street, while it is going to be a two-way street, with Indians coming to Lanka and Lankans going to India. By enhancing communication, bilateral trade will be boosted. The fear that terrorists and heroin smugglers will enter Lanka is also baseless because these generally use unconventional routes,” he explained.