December 2: Experts have suggested to the government to initiate diplomatic efforts for opening air routes via Mahendranagar and Nepalgunj for the smooth operation of Gautam Buddha International Airport, which is in the final phase of completion.
These two routes are vital for the functioning of the new airport of Nepal. India’s denial so far to open the entry routes will have a lasting impact on the airport, say experts.
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli had raised this issue with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi during his state visit to India. Likewise, late Tourism Minister Rabindra Adhikari had also talked about this issue with Indian authorities during the Global Aviation Summit 2019 in Mumbai.
However, Indian bureaucrats have been dilly-dallying the issue by paying just “lip service,” according to officials at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation.
Stakeholders have urged the government to initiate high-level diplomatic talks to ensure that India opens the air routes with the airport in final phase completion.
Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Yogesh Bhattarai has time and again said he will take up this matter with India but to no avail.
India had agreed to open four new air entry routes to Nepal during a bilateral meeting on June 16, 2018. However, the Airport Authority of India had denied opening the new routes stating that it needs some more time to sort out the technical issues and to carry out safety assessment.
Back then, India had agreed in principle to open air entry routes via Bhairahawa, Janakpur, Biratnagar, Nepalgunj and Mahendranagar. Later, India backtracked from its commitment and decided to open only Bhairahawa and Janakpur routes. India said it couldn’t open other routes due to security concerns, informed an official at the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN).
Aircraft entering Nepal from either east or west have been using the entry route above Simara to enter Nepal. However, aircraft can exit Nepal through Simara, Mahendranagar, Nepalgunj, Bhairahawa, Janakpur and Biratnagar routes via India’s air space.