Poland opens new Vistula Spit canal to bypass Russia interference

Vistula Spit: Poland recently opened a new canal for ships to sail from Baltic Sea to Vistula Lagoon ports.

Key Points:

  • The opening took place on the 83rd anniversary of the Soviet Union's invasion of Poland during World Struggle II.
  • This was done to represent symbolically the end of Russian influence over the economics and growth of the nation.
  • The new sea waterway links Vistula Lagoon to the GdaÅ„sk Bay and smaller ports of the lagoon allowing ships to visit the port of ElblÄ…g without needing Russian permission to use its Baltiysk Strait.
  • It shortens the Baltic-to-Elblag route by some 100 kilometers.
  • However, the construction of the 2 billion zlotys ($420 million) million canal which began in February 2019 has not been completed yet.
  • The work is expected to cost 100 million zlotys ($21 million).
  • Cargo ships will not be able to use the canal until it has been deepened another 16 feet.
  • Currently, while the smaller ships and yachts can use this route, cargo ships cannot sail through.

About Vistula Spit:

  • The Vistula Spit is an aeolian sand spit or a peninsular stretch that separates the Vistula Lagoon from the Gdansk Bay in the Baltic Sea.
  • Its tip is separated from the mainland by the Strait of Baltiysk known as Strait of Pilawa in Polish. 
  • This spit is politically divided between Poland and Russia as the border between Poland and Kaliningrad Oblast (semi-exclave belonging to Russia) passes through it.
  • The westernmost geographical point of Russia is located on the Vistula Spit.
  • The Polish part contains a number of tourist resorts, incorporated administratively as the town of Krynica Morska.

Strait of Pilawa:

  • Strait of Baltiysk or Strait of Pilawa known prior to 1945 by its German name, Pillau.
  • It is located in Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia.
  • It enables passage from the Baltic Sea into the freshwater Vistula Lagoon - a brackish water lagoon separated from the Gdansk Bay by the Vistula Spit.
  • It is a major shipping route connecting the Polish ports like Elblag, Braniewo, Frombork etc., and the Russian ports of Baltiysk and Kaliningrad in the northeastern lagoon with the open sea.

About Poland:

  • Poland officially the Republic of Poland is a country located in Central Europe.
  • It is bordered by Germany to the west, the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south, Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine to the east and Russia and the Baltic Sea to the north.
  • Poland's national emblem is a white eagle with a golden crown on a red background.
  • The national flag is white and red.
  • Its capital is Warsaw.
  • The Currency used in Poland is Polish zloty.

India and Poland Bilateral Relations:

  • India and Poland share a long-standing friendly relationship, marked by high level political contacts, vibrant economic engagement and traditional cultural links.
  • Diplomatic relations were established in 1954, leading to the opening of the Indian Embassy in Warsaw in 1957.
  • The two countries shared common ideological perceptions, based on their opposition to colonialism, imperialism and racism. During the Communist era, bilateral relations were close and cordial, with regular high-level visits (five VVIP visits from India – beginning with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in 1955 - and four from Poland), coupled with planned trade and economic interactions by state trading organizations, underpinned by the rupee clearing arrangements.
  • The relationship continued to remain close after Poland chose the democratic path in 1989.
  • A cordial political relationship has emerged in the current century, particularly after Poland joined the EU in 2004, and became one of India’s key economic partners in Central Europe.

Economic & commercial Relations:

  • Poland is India’s largest trade partner and export destination in the Central European region, with bilateral trade growing almost seven-fold over the last ten years.
  • As per Indian statistics, the overall
  • value of bilateral trade in 2019 was US$ 2.36 billion.
  • India’s export to Poland contributed to 0.48% of overall India’s export. Only 0.15% of India’s import was covered by Poland in 2019.
  • As per the statistics, the increase of bilateral trade by 2.5% was visible in 2019 in comparison with previous years.

Historical Fact:

  • In 1942 in India, two communities, Indians and Jews, were brought together to witness a hidden, unknown chapter in history that was lovingly called the ‘Little Poland in India.’
  • The relation with Poland started with an Indian man named Maharaja Digvijaysinhji Ranjitsinhji Jadeja, also known as 'Jam Sahib,'.
  • He was the king of Nawanagar City (currently part of Gujarat state, India).
  • He helped save the lives of 1,000 Polish children looking for refuge after fleeing Poland during World War II.
  • The Maharaja, against British will, intervened and volunteered to provide the children with a home in his town.
  • The kind ruler then proceeded to use his own personal money to build the Balachadi camp for the children about 25 km (15 miles) from the city of Jamnagar.
  • The camp had more than 60 buildings, including a chapel, laundry rooms, a stage to hold Polish cultural programs, a community center to hold Saturday evening dances for growing adults, and sports grounds.
  • The children were provided with food, clothing, and medical care.
  • A special library was set up with Polish books so that they could keep in touch with their culture.
  • The King even brought cooks from Goa so that ‘similar’ Polish food could be provided to them.