In a disappointing turn of events for Nepal, the Indian counterpart has turned down the country’s proposal for air access from the L626 route in Mahendranagar and Nepalgunj.
After a dismaying round of talks at New Delhi on October 11, 2018, the Civil Aviation Association of Nepal (CAAN) officials were forced to return home without any breakthrough, remarked CAAN authorities.
Access from L626 IN Nepalgunj air route was denied on the grounds of ‘defense issues’ while entry for high-level flights from L626 in Mahendranagar was denied due to heavy traffic in the Indian airspace, revealed sources.
“It seems that the issue will not be sorted out at the technical level and hence it will require a political level intervention,” they added.
Reasons Behind India’s Denial
Some officials think that the denial from the Indian side comes as a result of Nepal’s inability to participate in the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) joint-military exercise in Pune, last month.
Others think that India is using the situation as a ‘bargain chip’ to make Nepal use its advanced aviation technology ‘GAGAN’.
Although the Nepali visiting team was given full authority to negotiate on every possibility of routes and sign an agreement on CAAN’s behalf, India’s response left the Nepali side helpless and indicated that decisions lay in the hands of ‘higher authorities’.
With regards to Nepal’s proposal, India says it will make further examinations by September.
What Price Will Nepal Have to Pay?
The L626 from Mahendranagar and Nepalgunj will prove crucial to upcoming international airports in Bhairahawa and Pokhara, which are very much financially and technically dependent on India’s access provision.
According to Ministry documents, any diversion along these routes will cause international flights headed for Nepal’s Gautham Buddha Airport, an additional 300 kms to land. The upcoming international airport at Pokhara will also have to face the same issue, alongside operational costs.
Nepal had been pitching for cross-border airspace access for nine years! The issue was a part of Indian Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Nepal in May 2018.
Let’s see whether India will change its mind on the current issue and ease Nepal’s airspace concerns.
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