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International flights from Srinagar Airport: Were Governments really interested?

AAI, in its reply sought by information seeker M M Shuja, has said that it does not have communication from the successive state governments regarding international flights from Srinagar.

SAQIB MALIK
Srinagar, Publish Date: Mar 3 2017 1:16AM
International flights from Srinagar Airport: Were Governments really interested?File Photo

Successive state governments’ tall claims about attracting global tourists to Kashmir notwithstanding, information sought under RTI Act has revealed that “no state government in J&K for last ten years ever approached the Airports Authority of India (AAI) to facilitate international flight operations from the Srinagar Airport.” 

AAI, in its reply sought by information seeker M M Shuja, has said that it does not have communication from the successive state governments regarding international flights from Srinagar.

To mention, the only international flights which operate from the Srinagar International Airport are the annual Hajj flights. “Srinagar is a full-fledged international airport. It is up to various airlines to operate the international flights, which in turn depends on the traffic demand. This office does not have any communication to this effect,” it reads. 

Most airline companies are reluctant to start international flights from Srinagar owing to “less demand” on the route. 

However, members of Kashmir Inc say there is huge scope for starting international flights especially on Srinagar-Dubai and Srinagar-South East Asia sectors.

President, Kashmir Chamber of Commerce of Industry, Mushtaq Wani said the Srinagar-Dubai direct flight which was run by Air India in the past was discontinued suddenly despite repeated requests by KCCI for its continuance.

“There are thousands of Umrah pilgrims from Kashmir who will be benefitted by direct international flights. 

“We have now put forth a request to AirAsia India for starting flights from Srinagar to South East Asia via Delhi which will bring a good traffic of international tourists to the Valley.

“There are thousands of South East Asia tourists who visit Delhi and other cities and these tourists can be encouraged to visit Kashmir if there is air connectivity,” Wani said.

The information under RTI from AAI also reveals that the only official communication from any of JK government with regard to rechristening of the Srinagar International Airport as Sheikh-ul-Aalam International Airport was from the then Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad  in 2006. 

Pertinently, the Srinagar Airport was declared as international airport on 11-02-2005 and subsequently, a letter from then CM Ghulam Nabi Azad to the then Union Aviation Minister Praful Patel had apprised the latter that State Legislative Council had unanimously adopted a resolution to rename Srinagar Airport as Sheikh-ul-Alam International Airport “in memory of one of the greatest Sufi Saints of Kashmir namely ‘Sheikh Noorudin Nooran (RA)’ also called ‘Sheikh-ul-Aalam’”. 

The letter dated 31-05-2006 also goes on to add that Sheikh-ul-Alam lived in 14th century AD and preached at Chrar-i-Sharif which has now become one of the most important pilgrimage centers in Kashmir. 

“The secular character of Kashmiri society and the tolerant Islam being practiced here owes its origin in large measure to the teachings and legacy of Sheikh-ul-Aalam,” the letter read. 

It had said the state cabinet had also approved the proposal to rename Srinagar Airport as Sheikh-ul-Aalam Airport