Nepal rejected India’s ‘open sky’ proposal at a meeting held at New Delhi on 20 December 2016. The proposal was to allow unlimited flights between the two countries.
Nepal explained its decision by saying that it was not ready for the agreement and might consider it two years later. Currently, airlines of both the nations are allowed to operate only 30000 seats from each side.
• India and Nepal signed a memorandum of understanding to create a joint technical committee, which will be responsible for looking into Nepal’s request for developing new air routes and entry points at its Bhairahawa, Janakpur and Nepalgunj airports.
• The committee would convene in the first week of February 2017 to check the feasibility of the requested routes.
• Nepal has been looking to ease congestion on its existing air routes since long to save time and cost for its passengers. To enable the same, the nation is building a major international airport at Bhairahawa in Lumbini, western Nepal. Another airport at Pokhara is also being developed to reach up to international standards.
• The topic of increased air routes and service was raised in the joint statement issued by India and Nepal during the visit of Nepal’s Prime Minister, Pushpa Kamal Dahal.
According to the National Civil Aviation Policy, which was approved by the Union Cabinet earlier this year, India plans to initiate the ‘open sky’ agreement with all the SAARC countries and even those located beyond 5000 km radius from New Delhi.
India has already signed agreements with countries like Sri Lanka, Guyana, Czech Republic, Jamaica, Spain and Finland to allow airlines to employ unlimited flights to Indian cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Kolkata.
About ‘Open Sky’ agreement
• Generally, countries sign air agreements to decide the number of flights that airlines can fly between them.
•‘Open sky’ agreement, however, means relaxation of all the rules and regulations. Under the agreement, there would be no restriction or limit on the number of flights and seats.
• India currently doesn’t have any ‘open sky’ agreement with Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan among the SAARC countries. It does though allow unlimited flights from Maldives and Bangladesh at 18 of its domestic airports, from Sri Lanka at 23 airports and from Bhutan at all of its airports.
Hence, Nepal’s rejection to the proposal comes as a huge blow to India, especially since it was looking to counter the nation’s recent engagement with China for a military exercise and earlier this year for a transit trade treaty.