Seven months after assuming the role of Indian Ambassador to Nepal, Vinay Mohan Kwatra had a conversation with Yogesh Bhattarai, Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, on Friday.
The main agenda for Kwatra was to restart Nepal-India flights, which have been suspended for the past six months.
Nepal has halted all international flights since March and has recently resumed international flights. Nepal has not initiated daily flights immediately owing to the massive rise in corona in India.
According to reports, Ambassador Kwatra emphasized the need for scheduled flights to begin. A ministry source said, “The Nepalese embassy in Delhi has already said it should commence, but we have not made that decision yet.”
Tourism Minister Bhattarai brought up the question of air routes during the meetings. Nepal has lobbied India to include entry and exit points in Bhairahawa and Mahendranagar and Nepalgunj for both entry and exit points.
A written agreement was also achieved even during talks held in Kathmandu in 2018 between Nepal and India to include routes to Mahendranagar, Nepalgunj, Janakpur, and Biratnagar. However, India stepped away from the agreement and, for different motives, was hesitant to propose an air route to the west. The Bhairahawa deal was achieved in 2016.
Both countries have to complete the terminal procedure and receive clearance from the International Civil Aviation Organisation ( ICAO) to open this route. The route from Bhairahawa to Nepal has been planned, and the information has been submitted to India, according to the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal. Nevertheless, India has not yet taken measures to complete the Bhairahawa route.
Though the final step of work is pending, the goal is to put Gautam Buddha Airport into service next year.
The Nepalgunj and Mahendranagar routes are sufficient for flights arriving at Pokhara Airport and Gautam Buddha, as per Nepali officials. Nevertheless, India has been hesitant to provide it, claiming that due to military air camps in the area, there would be instability and heavy air traffic, an official said.
Why the West Route?
According to Civil Aviation former officials, International flights to Nepal are now entering Indian airspace. To descent the aircraft from 27000 feet, 100 nautical miles are needed. Kolkatta regulates the descent right now.
After taking over airspace from Bhairahawa, Lumbini Airport will stay in the same condition since Bhairahawa is next to the boundary with India. When the airspace is taken from Bhairahawa, all controls should be carried out by the Indian controller before the aircraft’s final landing period.
It will be eliminated to some degree if Nepal gets the demanded Nepalgunj and Mahendranagar roads. According to aviation officials, only after the Nepalese planes reach the Nepalese sky using Indian airspace.
If the weather is terrible, the aircraft should get hold in the sky. It would have been simpler to keep the aircraft in the Terai if India had given the Mahendranagar road. Indian space to carry the aircraft, however, while taking the Bhairahawa path.
Since, during arrival, there is a ‘layer’ of dense clouds around the airport, aircraft should ‘circle’ there instead of diverting. If enough space for around 20 nautical miles is not available, aircraft have to go into the airspace of India.
At Bhairahawa Airport, when there is a crisis, the aircraft would have to circle across Indian space. Aviation experts are also of the view that this air route is not acceptable for Bhairahawa Airport.
Apart from China, international flights are now entering Nepal from Simara. Using the same route from Mahendranagar, Bhairahawa, Janakpur, and Biratnagar, Nepal’s aircraft can enter India.