Thursday, June 01, 2023

India positive, but to tread cautiously on Nepal's request for new routes to save its airports built by China

As Nepal sought India’s help to ensure the economic viability of its two new airports built by China, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has assured his counterpart, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, that New Delhi would positively consider approving more air routes for entry and exit of aircraft to and from the neighbouring country.

New Delhi, however, will tread cautiously, given its security concerns, as approving new routes for international flights leaving the two airports from Nepal will require opening up India's airspace close to its border with China, including a portion currently under the control of the Indian Air Force.

“Nepal welcomes India’s positive indication (on the issue) of air entry routes for bilateral flights, which is operationally feasible for ATR aircraft,” Dahal said as he and Modi addressed media-persons after a meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Thursday. He, however, noted that Kathmandu had also requested New Delhi for approval for an additional high-altitude entry route so that carriers could deploy larger aircraft for regular flights to and from the Gautam Buddha International Airport in Nepal.

The Modi-Dahal meeting saw Kathmandu prodding New Delhi to allow additional routes for aircraft to fly through the airspace of India to and from the new international airports in Nepal. 

The issue has been on the agenda of discussion in the bilateral engagements between New Delhi and Kathmandu in the past too. India, however, has been treading cautiously on the request from Nepal, apparently due to security concerns.

“Air connectivity...and how best to intensify as also expand the connectivity between India and Nepal definitely came up for discussion,” Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra told journalists after the meeting between the two prime ministers. “There are many elements in it. There are elements of connectivity between different cities of India and different cities of Nepal. There is also

a question of connectivity among different cities of Nepal through different air routes.”

01/06/2023 Anirban Bhaumik/Deccan Herald

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