will protect its interests, says FM
Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar said that Sri Lanka will take
all steps to safeguard its wellbeing in the face of a unilateral
decision by India to proceed with the controversial Sethusamudram
project will involve cutting a seaway from the southern Indian state
of Tamil Nadu to the western coast of India through the narrow waters
that divide the two neighbours.
a statement in Parliament on Thursday, Mr. Kadirgamar said that
discussions between the two governments had been taking place for
some months at the highest levels, but that the Indian government
had proceeded to implement the project without asking for Sri Lanka's
the Government of India has chosen to implement the project on the
Indian side of the Indo-Sri Lanka maritime boundary.. no prior approval
was sought or granted for the project ", Mr. Kadirgamar said,
adding " .. we have raised our concerns relating to the project's
likely trans-frontier impact on Sri Lanka especially in the environment
and livelihood areas ".
statement, in answer to a question raised by a Buddhist-monk MP
clearly indicated Sri Lanka's unhappiness with India's unilateral
decision to proceed with this project which has raised environmental
issues both in India and Sri Lanka, and protests among mainly northern
Tamil fishermen of Sri Lanka.
The project was declared open by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh in the presence of Congress President Sonia Gandhi and DMK
leader M. Karunanidhi. Chief Minister Jayalalitha boycotted the
function saying she had other commitments.
Kadirgamar said that the concerns of his country would be safeguarded
" in a calibrated and graduated manner opting first for a cooperative
and consultative approach ".
Lanka views the project as being environmentally detrimental to
its northern waters, while India sees it as a long-time dream to
enable its vessels to go from its western and eastern coasts without
having to go around Sri Lanka.
LTTE is also opposed to the project on the basis that it would hinder
their movements between the island and south India where they have
long established bases and even field hospitals during fighting
with government troops.
Foreign Minister's remarks hinted of a strain in the otherwise excellent
relations between the two neighbouring states, both determined to
end the rebel claim for a separate state in the north and east of
He said that the Sri Lankan government was currently engaged in
this exercise, but hinted of a tougher line to follow if the approach
did not work saying " we will consider further action thereafter
if and when necessary ".
" Relevant authorities in our two countries will be able to
proceed on this matter with due diligence and care ", he added
having pointed out that the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Straits
area where the canal project is to take place is a " shared
biosphere for both India and Sri Lanka ".
said that the development and protection of the area, including
its sensitive marine life "should be carried out jointly and
Mr. Kadirgamar said that "if the proposed canal poses adverse
effects to Sri Lanka, the government will explore appropriate measures
and take all necessary steps to safeguard our interests ".
contacted, the Indian High Commission’s Head of Economics
Division told The Sunday Times that India was still continuing with
the consultation process with the technical committees. He declined
to comment on the comment made by Minister Kadirgamar that his Government
would explore appropriate measures to safeguard Sri Lankan interests.