SRINAGAR: It is the twelfth year since the Srinagar Airport was granted international status, yet it does not operate international flights because the Government of India (GoI) has not given it permission.
Only during the 40 days in a year when Muslims go for the Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, international flights operate from Srinagar airport; the rest of the year it is confined to domesticity.
Director of Srinagar International Airport, Sharad Kumar, told Kashmir Reader that the airport has the required facilities for operating international flights. He said these facilities were installed by the GoI in February 1998 and were first used to handle international Hajj flights from Srinagar in January 2002.
In March 2005, the airport was formally granted international status by the Indian government. The GoI funding of Rs 130 crore expanded the terminal and increased the parking stands from four to nine, able to serve both domestic and international flights. In 2009, for the first time in the history of Srinagar airport, Air India started weekly flights to Dubai, but these were terminated in the beginning of 2010.
“Since then, no international flights, expect during the Hajj period, took off from here,” Kumar said.
The airport director said he had written to the concerned department in Jammu and Kashmir Government and to the Airports Authority of India (AAI) for starting international flights. “The minister in the state government has shown a positive attitude and has said he will take up the matter with the GoI. What has been the outcome, I am not aware,” Kumar said. “Lately I have proposed starting flights to Dubai, Malaysia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan from Srinagar, as a starter. I have sent the proposal to both the state and central government. I am waiting for their nod.”
Before Jammu and Kashmir became a contested territory between India and Pakistan, the airport was used only by the British Air Force. During the Indo-Pakistan War of 1947, the airport received Indian military troops. Although the airport was small and lacked landing aids, the airdrop was still carried out successfully on October 27. In 1979, the Airports Authority of India established a civil enclave at the airport.
At present, five airlines – Jet Airways, Spice, Indigo, Air India and GoAir – carry domestic passengers. The airport now has the required infrastructure for operating night flights, including required runway length, runway lights and adequate staff at the aerodrome.
The Srinagar airport occupies a small corner of the massive IAF air base and is under their control. The airport land has actually been leased out to the AAI by the Indian Air Force and houses the terminal building where passengers check-in and depart. The AAI also controls the apron area (where an aircraft is parked). The airspace and runway control is with the IAF.