September 13: Although the construction of Gautam Buddha International Airport is in final phase, the airport is yet to get approval to use the air route through Mahendranagar and Nepalgunj.
The operation of the airport has become uncertain due to the delay in granting permission for the airport to use those two routes by India. Experts say that the government must make diplomatic efforts to resolve this issue with India.
Officials at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation say that Prime Minister KP Oli had discussed the issue with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi during his last visit to India but there has been no further development.
Although the political actors of India have not rejected the proposal of Nepal to use the two air routes, which is shorter than the other route in use, India’s bureaucracy has been delaying the process, according to officials at the tourism ministry.
Tourism Minister Yogesh Bhattarai has time and again said he will make diplomatic efforts with India to resolve the issue but there has been no tangible progress. The minister claims that the airport will be operational by the start of 2021.
Two years ago, India had agreed to allow Nepal to use four additional air routes for the aircraft entering the country through India. However, the Airport Authority of India had denied permission due to technical issues and the need for safety assessment.
Although India had in principle agreed to allow Nepal to use the air entry routes of Bhairahawa, Janakpur, Biratnagar, Nepalgunj and Mahendranagar. However, India has allowed Nepal to use only Bhairahawa and Janakpur entry routes.
Officials at the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) say that India denied permission to use the other air routes citing security concerns.
All aircraft entering Nepal through India have to use the route near Simara. However, the aircraft leaving Nepal can use Mahendranagar, Nepalgunj, Bhairahawa and Janakpur routes.
According to officials, using the Mahendranagar and Nepalgunj routes to enter Nepal would lessen the distance by 14 nautical miles