• India to discuss aviation assistance with Nepal tohelp build three airports

    India is scrambling to offer assistance to Nepal in developing its aviation sector, an attempt to counter China’s initiative to help the Himalayan country build three international airports.

    The government has invited Nepalese officials to discuss issues including reviving an old plan of the state-owned Airports Authority of India (AAI) to build and operate airports in the neighbouring country, officials told ET.

    “Authorities from Nepal are coming to India soon to discuss issues related to AAI,” said a senior aviation ministry official, who did not want to be identified.

    Nepal had surprised Indian officials at the International Civil Aviation Negotiations (ICAN), held in the first week of December 2016, by informing them that China is providing soft loans and expertise for three international airports in places including Pokhara and Janakpur, which shares its border with Bihar in India.

    Another official said that the issues to be discussed with Nepal include Air Traffic Control along with the AAI’s old plan. While the AAI renders ATC services to Nepal, it had earlier planned to build and operate Nepal’s second airport in Kathmandu.

    At the bilateral meeting held between the two nations during ICAN, India had offered open skies to Nepal, something that Nepal declined. At the same meeting, Sri Lanka agreed to open skies with India, allowing its carriers to add as many flights as they sought from six key cities in India, including four metros.

    ET’s query sent to external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup did not elicit any response till late evening on Monday.

    China’s moves to invest in infrastructure in countries neighbouring India, such as Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh, have been a concern for India for a while now. While Sri Lanka has been the recipient of Chinese investments in two ports and related projects, China has offered Bangladesh and Pakistan $24 billion and $46 billion in loans and private investments respectively.

    India and Nepal enjoyed close bilateral ties till 2015, before Nepal announced a new constitution which discriminated against Madhesis of Indian origin.

    Protests by Madhesis led to cessation of trade across the India-Nepal border as agitation grew increasingly intense in southern Nepal, depriving the country of much-needed fuel and other supplies. Nepalese authorities accused India of imposing an undeclared blockade, a charge India strongly denied.  Niklas Kronwall Authentic Jersey

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