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Indian side proposes March-end, early-April meeting on air routes

- Post Report, Kathmandu

Feb 21, 2017-India has proposed March-end or early-April for Nepal-India Joint Technical Committee meeting on air routes after the meeting failed to convene in the first week of February, proposed previously, amid controversy over India’s proposal to allow overnight stay for in-flight security officer, popularly known as “air marshal”.

After the controversy ensued in Nepal, India had not responded to calls to fix a date for the meeting.

The first meeting was held in New Delhi last December in which India had proposed allowing overnight stay for in-flight security officer.

This time, as per the proposal, the meeting will be held in Kolkata.

However, before the meeting, Nepali officials will meet officials of the Airport Authority of India in the first week of March in New Delhi for the safety assessment of the Kathmandu-Mahendranagar-Delhi (L626) route which India had agreed to develop as a bi-directional route—a route that would facilitate two-way movement of traffic in the air.

The safety assessment of routes needs to be carried out before their formal implementation.

“The safety assessment of the route will be carried out at Indira Gandhi International Airport,” said a high-level Caan official. “Four members—two each from Caan and Nepal Airlines Corporation—will participate in the safety assessment meeting.”

“Risk assessments are done normally when new routes are added to determine whether it is safe to fly to or over. If there is risk, it can be mitigated to an acceptable level.”

In the Delhi meeting, India had agreed to develop the Himalaya 2 air route and redefine the Kathmandu-Mahendranagar-Delhi (L626) route as a bi-directional route.

The southern neighbour had also granted bi-directional facility for the Lhasa-Kathmandu-Bharatpur-Bhairahawa-Delhi B345 route and the Kathmandu-Jaleshwor-Patna G335 route.

However, there were no substantial development with regard to 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.

India had pointed out some technical issues with the proposed three cross-border airspaces that needed to be sorted out first. The two countries then decided to hold another round of discussions in the first week of February.

According to Caan officials, among the three proposed routes, the Nepalgunj airspace best matches the Tribhuvan International Airport and the proposed international airports in Bhairahawa, Pokhara and Nijgadh.

Entry through Bhairahawa will not be feasible to land at Gautam Buddha Airport due to the proximity with Indian border as aircraft need to make low flying while landing at the airport, they said.

Despite their (the Indian side’s) reservations over the airspace due to the presence of their defence base, they have hinted at opening some sections of the airspace over Nepalgunj. “Our major agenda will be the entry-exit point over the Nepalgunj space,” said the Caan official.  “We are yet to form a team for the joint technical committee meeting.”

Nepal has been pushing the agenda of expanding new cross-border airspaces for the past eight years. The agenda was endorsed during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Nepal in August 2014.

Published: 21-02-2017 09:36

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