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Govt ropes in AAI to build hangars at Kathmandu airport to counter Chinese influence

The Ministry of Civil Aviation is also considering allowing Nepalese airlines to operate flights on new routes in India

New Delhi: To counter China’s growing influence in Nepal, the government has roped in Airports Authority of India (AAI) to build new and upgrade existing hangars at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport. The Ministry of Civil Aviation is also considering allowing Nepalese airlines to operate flights on new routes in India.

A source within the Ministry of Civil Aviation, who refused to be identified, said that the AAI has started working on it and sought a detailed project report from Nepal. The ministry officials have been asked to clear the said requests urgently. One of the requests, which has been routed through the Indian embassy in Nepal, is to allow a Nepalese airline, Buddha Air, to ply on new routes in India. It is not the first time that the government has deputed the public sector undertaking (PSU) to counter Beijing’s influence and to meet strategic objectives in the region’s geopolitics. After Sri Lanka leased out its Hambantota Port to China on a 99-year-long lease, AAI had been asked to buy a controlling stake in Sri Lanka’s Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport. The move was dubbed as a policy failure because the airport is known to be the world’s emptiest.

After Sri Lanka leased out its Hambantota Port to China on a 99-year-long lease, AAI had been asked to buy a controlling stake in Sri Lanka’s Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport. The move was dubbed as a policy failure because the airport is known to be the world’s emptiest.
In Nepal, this will not be the first time when AAI would be attempting to enter the aviation sector. Previously, the AAI had bid for an airport project near Kathmandu which failed to take off due to questions over the viability of the project. Since the Left alliance came to power in Nepal, New Delhi has been jittery about Kathmandu’s growing closeness to Beijing, especially because the Himalayan nation has offered many big-ticket infrastructure projects to China. Nepal also recently snubbed India by not sending its troops to the first Bimstec (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) anti-terror military exercise that is being held in Pune from September 10 to 16. Instead, it chose to send its soldiers to China for an anti-terror exercise.