India agrees to develop, upgrade four air routes

  • Three new cross-border entry points to be discussed further

Dec 22, 2016-India has agreed to develop the Trans-Himalaya 2 air route and redefine the Kathmandu-Mahendranagar-Delhi (L626) route as a bi-directional route during the Nepal-India air service talks which concluded in New Delhi on Wednesday. 

Moreover, the southern neighbour has granted bi-directional facility for the Lhasa-Kathmandu-Bharatpur-Bhairahawa-Delhi B345 route and the Kathmandu-Jaleshwor-Patna G335 route. However, the vertical limits of these routes have not been mentioned. Currently, there is no entry permission through these routes. 

The B345 route is expected to facilitate cross-border flights from the under-construction international airport in Pokhara with high vertical flying.

Nepal and India signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the management and execution of these airspaces on Wednesday. The Nepali delegation was led by the joint secretary of the Tourism Ministry Suresh Acharya and the Indian team was headed by Arun Kumar, joint secretary at the Ministry of Aviation.

However, there has been no substantial development with regard to the three new cross-border air entry points in Janakpur, Bhairahawa and Nepalgunj airspaces that Nepal had proposed with the view of connecting the upcoming international airports in Bhairahawa, Pokhara and Nijgadh. 

“The two countries decided to hold another round of discussions on these three proposed routes in February,” said Hari Bahadur Khadka, under-secretary of the Tourism Ministry, who participated in the air service talks. 

He added that India had pointed to some technical issues with the entry point in Nepalgunj airspace that needed to be sorted out first. 

Likewise, with regard to the entry point in Bhairahawa airspace, India said that the route was widely used by Indian fighter jets and would be difficult for civilian aircraft flying at low altitudes. 

Another entry point over Janakpur could be problematic due to its proximity to the Simara route, which is used by almost all aircraft flying to Nepal and suffers from air traffic congestion.   

Trans-Himalaya 2 airspace that connects Kathmandu with Bagdogra, Guwahati, Silchar, Imphal and Kunming will be a moneymaking route for Nepal. If it is opened, it will provide the shortest way from China and the Far East to the Middle East and Europe. Implementation of this airspace will allow international airlines to fly over Nepali airspace, which means savings in fuel and distance for carriers and revenue for Nepal.

The route will also contribute to environmental protection with less carbon emission. It will help reduce congestion of westbound traffic flows across the Bay of Bengal. Following India’s agreement, Nepal now needs to hold talks with Myanmar and China to get their consent too, according to Khadka. 

The objective of making L626 a bi-directional route is to extend it from Kathmandu to Kunming in order to make the proposed Trans-Himalaya 2 airspace a reality.

India has also asked Nepal to suggest a draft of a letter of agreement to set up a joint search and rescue mission in case of emergencies in the border areas by the second week of February.  

Meanwhile, Nepal has refused to adopt an open skies policy as proposed by India’s new National Civil Aviation Policy that envisions allowing unlimited air traffic rights among all Saarc member countries. India released a national civil aviation policy on June 17 opening up the skies to Saarc countries. 

The airspace agenda was endorsed during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Nepal in August 2014.

Published: 22-12-2016 08:46

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