Pak Objects To Int’l Flights From Srinagar Airport

Pak Objects To Int’l Flights From Srinagar Airport

7 June 2012
Rising Kashmir
Abid Bashir

Srinagar: In a major jolt to tourism industry of Kashmir, Pakistan has objected to operation of international flights from Srinagar airport citing disputed nature of Jammu and Kashmir and apprehending that international air traffic could pose a threat to country’s security. Highly placed sources told Rising Kashmir that Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had taken up the matter of starting international flights from Srinagar airport with Union Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh earlier this year. “The Government of India (GoI) had in turn taken up the matter with Pakistan government. However, Pakistan objected to operation of international flights from Srinagar in view of security apprehensions. Pak officials felt that international air traffic from Srinagar could pose a threat to its security,” they said. They said Pakistan also refused operation of international flights from Srinagar airport because of disputed nature of Jammu and Kashmir. “GoI conveyed Pakistan’s objection on international flights from Srinagar airport to Omar,” sources said. Though Srinagar airport has been named as Srinagar international airport but the fact is that not a single international flight operates from the airport. The Pak refusal for international flights from Srinagar airport comes at a time when Kashmir is witnessing tourism boom and is expected to host record number of tourists this season. The Srinagar airport does not have Night Landing System (NLS). In absence of the facility, the flights cannot land in Srinagar airport in the evening. Government of India has failed to install Night Landing System (NLS) at the airport, much to the annoyance of people associated with tourism sector. Sources said once the NLS is installed at the airport, at least five to six flights can land and take off. On July 8, 2011, Director Airport Authority of India, V P Agarwal had announced that they were working out a plan to install NLS at the Srinagar airport. But the night landing facility has not been installed at the airport yet. The fresh developments have disappointed tour operators, who were demanding operation of international flights and NLS at Srinagar airport. “Since Pakistan has objected to international flights from Srinagar government, the GoI should discuss the issue with the Pakistani government again for the benefit of the J&K people. We need to have international flights, otherwise there is no fun in calling Srinagar airport as an international airport,” said Siraj Ahmad, General Secretary Kashmir Economic Alliance (KEA). He said international flights, if started, can give a major fillip to tourism in Kashmir. “We can have tourists from Middle East and even from Pakistan. Tourism has no boundaries.” About NLS, Siraj said it was unfortunate that the project is still pending. “The night landing facilities at Srinagar airport could have promoted tourism,” he said. President Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industries, Mubeen Shah, said India and Pakistan should work out a plan to allow international flights from Srinagar airport for the benefit of J&K. “There is no fun of having an airport having just an international tag. We need international flights to explore tourism sector further,” he said. On NLS, he said it was unfortunate to see project being delayed. “NLS can promote corporate tourism in Kashmir. There are people from elite class, who would like to board the chartered flight on Friday evening and fly back on Sunday evening,” he said. A leading tour operator, Nasir Shah said, “We need to provide night services to the tourists. Sleeping habit has to be changed into night service mode,” he said. He said if high-class tourists arrive during evening, they need to be provided with the night services. Regarding international flights from Srinagar airport, Shah said India and Pakistan should iron out their differences on international flights. “The step can prove a major source of benefit for the tourism,” he added.