Srinagar: All airlines while landing and taking off from Srinagar airport alert their passengers that the airport is an “Air Force base” and it is prohibited to click pictures of the airport while landing or take-off. When asked if this sudden warning sends a wrong signal, Director of Airport Authority of India (AAI), Srinagar, Sharad Kumar said that it is not only at Srinagar airport that photography is prohibited. “We believe the airport needs security,” Kumar said. “I do not think that the warning will create any problem for tourists or send a wrong signal.”
A passenger disagreed. “The warning does give a wrong signal when one lands on the airport,” said Praveen Kumar, who boarded a flight from Delhi to Srinagar. “I have come to visit several places in Kashmir as a tourist. But when I heard the announcement by the pilot, I felt the plane had landed in a war zone. The passengers who come for the first time to Srinagar may be getting the same feeling. It made me conscious of the militarised surroundings at the airport.”
Ashfaq Sididuqi Dug, President of Travel Agents Association of Kashmir (TAAK), said that the AAI only owns an aerodrome building and the apron areas of the airport. “The major portion of the airport is under the command of the Air Force” he said.
“It has been made mandatory for private airlines to announce that tourists are landing on an Air Force base. The impact of this warning makes the tourist somewhat cautious about the place. I think it does reinforce the negative portrayal of Kashmir that is increasingly peddled by Indian news channels,” Dug said.
“It is better that we should do things that increase the confidence of tourists to visit Kashmir and help them enjoy,” Dug said.
Kumar said that the Srinagar airport is both an airport and an Air Force base. He said that the runway and the air traffic control (ATC) are under direct control of the Air Force, but the government has notified land for landing of private and international flights, “so it is an international airport.”