India eyeing bridge or undersea tunnel to link Sri Lanka

“When I met ADB officials (in June), they told me to look at a connectivity project between the Indian mainland and Sri Lanka as well. They said that they would finance it. They proposed a bridge between Rameswaram and Sri Lanka,” Gadkari said. The BBIN pact seeks to open up vehicular traffic in order to give impetus to trade and sub-regional cooperation, a key element of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s neighbourhood policy.According to Sri Lankan diplomats, the idea of connecting India and Sri Lanka by a bridge or undersea tunnel has not been broached by the New Delhi government in recent times.But news reports say the idea of a land bridge or a causeway between India and Sri Lanka was mooted back in 2002 by current Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in his earlier stint. The idea behind it was to enable trucks from southern India to ferry goods to the Colombo port, one of the largest in the region. However, there were strong objections from some sections in Sri Lanka, who said the plan would mean Sri Lanka will be seen as an “extension of India”, according to media reports. India, after signing a road transport agreement with Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal, is said to be considering an ambitious bridge or undersea tunnel linking the Indian mainland with Sri Lanka, Livemint reported.India was mulling the project after the Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) suggested that India look at a project linking Sri Lanka, India’s roads minister Nitin Gadkari said at a Mint Conversation, a platform where special invitees interact with Mint staff. Connectivity as been a key theme in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) for many years now and a beginning was made when India signed the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) transport pact in June in the Bhutanese capital, Thimphu.The pact was proposed after Saarc, which also includes Afghanistan, the Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, failed to conclude a motor vehicles pact, along with an agreement on regional railways when the leaders of the eight nations met in Kathmandu in November 2014. This was because Pakistan was unable to secure internal clearances. India-Pakistan squabbles have been blamed for Saarc failing to realize its potential for economic integration. “It (the idea of a corridor) is a good idea. But I think it will take time to fructify,” said a person familiar with the developments who did not want to be named. “If it works out, it will definitely give a boost to sub regional cooperation within Saarc.” Currently, India is connected to Sri Lanka by at least 100 flights a week. A ferry link between Dhanushkodi in Tamil Nadu and Thalaimannar in Sri Lanka was snapped in 1983, when the Tamil-Sinhala ethnic conflict erupted in Sri Lanka.Another ferry service that was started in 2011 between Tuticorin (in Tamil Nadu) and Colombo after the end of the Sri Lankan civil war in 2009, was discontinued as the operator deemed it uneconomical. (Colombo Gazette) “When I recently visited Rotterdam (Netherlands), I visited an immersed tunnel connecting Rotterdam and Belgium. So, it could be an immersed tunnel or a bridge. We are looking at it,” the minister said. read more

In recorded vote Security Council approves one year extension of UN mission

Calling upon all parties to cooperate fully with the MINURSO’s operations, the Council, by a vote of 10 in favour to two against (Venezuela and Uruguay), with three abstentions (Angola, New Zealand and Russia), extended the mission’s mandate until 30 April 2017.The colonial administration of Western Sahara by Spain ended in 1976. Fighting later broke out between Morocco and the Polisario Front. A ceasefire was signed in September 1991. MINURSO was deployed that year to monitor a ceasefire between the Government of Morocco and the Polisario Front and organizing, if the parties agree, a referendum on self-determination in Western Sahara.In the current text, the Council calls upon the parties to “continue negotiations under the auspices of the Secretary-General without preconditions and in good faith, taking into account the efforts made since 2006 and subsequent developments, with a view to achieving a just, lasting, and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara,” in the context of arrangements consistent with the principles of the UN Charter.The Council’s action follows its consideration of the Secretary-General’s latest report, which notes that without a suitable and fully staffed international civilian component, the mission cannot fulfil a core component of its functions and will thus fail to meet the Council’s expectations. It warns that the inability of the mission to execute its mandated tasks would entail, in the short- to middle-term, “significant implications for the stability of the region as well as for the credibility of the Council and peacekeeping operations and political missions globally.”Regretting that MINURSO’s ability to fully carry out its mandate has been affected as the majority of its civilian component, including political personnel, cannot perform their duties, the Council, in its resolution, requested a briefing from the Secretary-General within 90 days on whether the mission has returned to full functionality and expressed “its intention, if MINURSO has not achieved full functionality, to consider how best to facilitate achievement of this goal.”Further by the resolution, Council members expressed their “firm support for the determined efforts of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy [for Western Sahara, Christopher Ross] for a solution is found to the question Western Sahara.”The Council also urged Member States to make voluntary contributions to fund confidence-building measures agreed by the parties, including those allowing separated members of the same family to visit, and food programmes to ensure that the humanitarian needs of refugees are adequately addressed. read more