Cross-border airspace issues between Nepal and India that have been pending for the last five years are expected to be sorted out in the much awaited Nepal-India air routes talks that began in Kathmandu on Thursday.
The issue of new air routes was also discussed during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Nepal on May 11.
The proposed bidirectional routes will facilitate the operation of international flights from Bhairahawa, Pokhara and Nijgadh airports.
Member of Air Navigation Services and board member of the Airport Authority of India (AAI) Anil Kumar Dutta is leading the six-member Indian technical delegation. Deputy Director General of Air Navigation Services Directorate of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), Narendra Bahadur Thapa, is leading the Nepali delegation.
According to a report by The Kathmandu Post Nepal has been pushing the agenda of expanding cross-border air routes for the last nine years, as there is only a single entry point in Simara for most of the airlines flying to the country. In contrast, there are seven exit points for aircraft flying out of Nepal: Bhairahawa and Mahendranagar in the west, and Simara, Biratnagar, Tumlingtar, Kakarbhitta and Janakpur in the east.
Besides Simara, two other entry points over Mechi and Tumlingtar (Nonim which is in the east of Everest) have been specifically designated for flights coming from Bhutan and Lhasa respectively. The Simara entry point is used by a majority of aircraft flying to Nepal and is, therefore, congested most of the time.
The two upcoming international airports in Bhairahawa and Pokhara will not be financially and technically feasible if India does not allow aircraft to enter Nepal from one of the proposed cross-border air routes in Bhairahawa, Nepalgunj or Mahendranagar.