Nepal | May 30, 2020

More air entry routes from India sought

Umesh Poudel
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Kathmandu, May 13

Nepal and India have agreed to start a technical study to open four new air routes between the two countries within September. During the two-day state visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Nepal, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and his Indian counterpart agreed to finalise the technical study of opening air entry routes at Nepalgunj, Bhairahawa, Janakpur and Biratnagar.

The joint statement released by both the prime ministers includes the issue regarding opening more air routes. “Recognising the vibrant people to people contacts and friendly bilateral ties, the two prime ministers directed the respective officials to expand cooperation in civil aviation sector, including early technical discussion on additional air entry routes to Nepal by respective technical teams,” the statement reads.

Meanwhile, PM Oli during his address to the federal parliament today stated that the issues mentioned in the joint statement will be implemented as scheduled.

Point number seven in the joint statement which talks about the new air routes mentions that ‘The two prime ministers underlined the catalytic role of connectivity in stimulating economic growth and promoting movement of people. They agreed to take further steps to enhance the economic and physical connectivity by air, land, and water’.

Nepal has only three air entry (inbound and outbound) routes – Simara and Kakarbhitta on the Indian side and Tumlingtar on the Chinese side. Nepal had earlier urged India to formally open four new air routes at Janakpur, Bhairahawa, Nepalgunj and Mahendranagar. Nepali officials had held formal discussions with Indian officials for four additional air entry routes in December, 2016, in New Delhi. The discussions were held between officials from Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) and Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) from Nepal side and officials of the Airports Authority of India from the Indian side.

However, airplanes from Nepal do have exit facility through Janakpur, Bhairahawa, Nepalgunj and Mahendranagar air routes. But Nepal is seeking both entry and exit facility through the above mentioned air routes.

Nepal believes that the four additional air entry routes will make it easier to handle flights to and from the Gautam Buddha International Airport in Bhairahawa, Pokhara Regional International Airport in Pokhara and Second International Airport (SIA) in Nijgadh once they come into operation. The Bhairahawa and Pokhara airports are under construction and SIA is in the stage of preparing detailed project report.

“There is not much of a problem in opening the Janakpur air route but opening the Nepalgunj air route is a bit more complicated according to Indian officials,” said Dipak Baral, director of Air Traffic Management for CAAN. Baral added that since the Indian army has opened an air defence base camp on the Indian side close to Nepalgunj this route is a bit complicated.

Nepal had formally held talks regarding the new air routes during Indian PM Modi’s first visit to Nepal in 2014. However, Nepal had held talks regarding the new air routes with concerned Indian officials a decade before that.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs held a meeting with MoCTCA, CAAN and other concerned stakeholders to discuss some air route related agendas last Sunday,” said Pramod Nepal, under-secretary of MoCTCA. “The joint technical team will hold further discussions regarding new air routes as soon as possible in keeping with spirit of the statement.”

A version of this article appears in print on May 14, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.

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