Union minister of state for civil aviation Jayant Sinha on Thursday assured that the Srinagar airport would be equipped with night-landing facility "within a few months," even as he ruled out having a full-fledged civilian airport in Kashmir.
Addressing 'Idea Summit 2017' here, the minister said that international flights to countries like Malaysia would be made operational from Srinagar by the start of next tourist season in Kashmir.
"We are going working very hard to get the night-landing facility for the Srinagar airport as soon as possible so that we can improve its connectivity. We are going to build the approach lights at the airport that will pave way to start the night-landing facility. All things will be completed within a few months," Sinha said at the Summit, organised by non-governmental organisation Foundation for Resource Development and Education (FRD&E). The function was attended by dozens of entrepreneurs and established businesses in the hospitality sector.
The installation of night landing facility has been one of the long-pending demands in Kashmir, with experts and tourism players reiterating that absence of such a facility was hitting the Kashmir economy badly.
Sinha said that during the peak season, Srinagar airport receives around 40 flights a day. But, he said, the air traffic will grow once the night-landing system is installed.
"It will mean more tourists flying to Kashmir and consequently, more business," he said.
The Srinagar airport is under the direct control of the defense ministry.
To a question whether the civil aviation ministry plans to have a full-fledged civil airport for Kashmir, Sinha said that it was difficult in hilly areas to find sufficient area for landing of large jets.
"We need a runway of two to three kilometers. We will explore the idea but I suspect we will not find anything better than we have at present," he said.
He emphasised the need to connect Srinagar to international destinations like Malaysia and Dubai and other eastern countries, directly.
"I can't give you a firm commitment on this but we are going to try very hard to enable Srinagar to get connected towards the East. Since flying East to countries like Malaysia, Singapore and Dubai is not an issue, I am sure within next six months we will be able to connect you to Kuala Lumpur," he said.
The government of India is planning to connect Kashmir to other major states including Ahmadabad, Bangalore, Chennai and Kolkatta directly through air traffic, the minister said.
"We are working on a scheme in partnership with the state government that will enable us to add significant capacity for direct flights from these states during the peak tourist season," Sinha said. "The aim is to bring more tourists comfortably to Srinagar so that you can expand tourism, craft and other businesses."
Sinha also talked about his ministry's plans to enhance cargo facility at the Srinagar airport to facilitate quick transport of fruits, flowers, carpets and other items to outside states and countries.
"We are going to significantly expand this facility," he said.
He said that the ministry was also exploring to build a pilot training institute in Srinagar.
"The aviation industry is growing fast and we are short of pilots. We can benefit from Srinagar," he said. "I will work to put up a pilot training school and a cabin crew institute here."
The minister said that the economic and business opportunities and jobs would help bring "more peace" to Kashmir.
The function was attended by director FRD&E Khalid Jehangir, who is also vice-chairman of J&K Projects Construction Corporation and spokesperson of BJP. Earlier, some entrepreneurs shared their experiences of starting their ventures in Kashmir.