May 17: Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has urged India to provide additional air entry routes from Mahendranagar, Nepalgunj and Janakpur.
He made such request during a delegation-level talks held with his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi in Lumbini on Monday. Prime Minister Deuba requested for additional air routes in order to facilitate connectivity and travel between the two countries during Modi’s official visit to Lumbini.
According to Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), the airway distance to Nepal from India and beyond will be shorter from these new routes.
Nepal has been pressing India since a long time to open new air entry routes with the view of facilitating flights to and from the Gautam Buddha International Airport, which came into operation on May 16, as well as the under-construction Pokhara Regional International Airport and the proposed Nijgadh International Airport.
On June 15, 2018, India had agreed to allow new air entry routes to Nepal for international flights. The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) and Airports Authority of India (AAI) had signed a bilateral agreement on international air route to Nepal back then to allow international flights to enter Nepal through Janakpur and Biratnagar entry points.
Prior to this, international flights from India could enter Nepal's air space only from Simara.
Although India had in principle agreed to allow Nepal to use the air entry routes of Janakpur, Biratnagar, Bhairahawa Nepalgunj and Mahendranagar, 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.
Nepal and India have held several rounds of discussions to open air entry routes from Mahendranagar and Nepalgunj. However, the two countries are yet to reach an understanding in this regard.
The two countries had decided to conduct a feasibility study to allow air entry routes to Nepal from Mahendranagar and Nepalgunj. However, due to India’s reluctance, the work has not yet been able to progress. An official of CAAN had informed New Business Age during an interview in 2019 that India is reluctant to grant permission along these two routes citing security concerns.
Former Prime Minister KP Oli had also discussed the issue with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi during his 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 reportedly delaying the process, according to officials at the tourism ministry.