Baalu dismisses claim of security threat from Sethu project

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Chennai, Feb 2 (UNI) Union Shipping Minister T R Baalu today said the contentious Sethusamudram Shipping Channel Project (SSCP) would not pose any threat to country's security as envisaged by Coast Guard (CG) Chief R F Contractor.

Asked about the CG's remark that security issues were bound to a rise once the project was implemented, Mr Baalu said the project was cleared by all departments before it was launched.

''The project was cleared by the Union Cabinet after extensive discussions and the Defence Ministry had also sent a note to the government on the importance of implementing the project'', he added.

''There will not be any threat to India's security once the ships start sailing in the Cahal'', he said.

Mr Baalu's remarks come two days after CG Director General Contractor said there would be security risks because it was a maritime area. And by virtue of close boundary lines between Sri Lanka and India, obviously the security implications were more''.

''Projects like the Sethusamudram could bring in more security problems. The small waterway could prove a security risk,'' the Coast Guard DG had said.

Admiral Contractor's views assumes significance in the wake of Naval Chief Suresh Mehta's observation that the project might be unviable for big ships.

The SSCP is already hit by controversy with the BJP and other frontline Hindu organisations opposing demolition of 'Ram Sethu'(Adam's Bridge) as part of dredging near the Bridge area and the Supreme court granting a stay for dredging in that area.

On Congress spokesperson Ambika Soni's remarks that whether the Ram Sethu was a natural formation or man-made was a question of Hindu sentiments, Mr Baalu said it was her own personal remarks.

''It is not the view of the Centre , which was committed to implementing the project after overcoming legal hurdles'', he added.

The four-member ministerial committee formed by the Centre had submitted its report to the Union Cabinet. The Cabinet would study it and decide on when to submit it before the apex court, which had granted four weeks time to the Centre to file its affidavit explaining its stand on the issue.

UNI GV VV SP RN1839

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