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Srinagar Airport will soon have night landing facility, Civil Aviation Minister Jayant Sinha said here today and batted for connecting the Valley directly to international destinations like Kuala Lumpur and Dubai.
"My endeavour will be to have international flights in Srinagar by the time tourist season starts in May-June," the minister told reporters while replying to queries.
The minister, who was speaking at the day-long Ideas Summit 2017 of entrepreneurs, announced that the ministry is exploring the possibility of a new airport in Jammu region, preferably in Katra so that Vaishno Devi pilgrims are also benefited.
On Srinagar airport, he said most of the arrangements for night landing at the airport here have been completed.
"We are going to be working very hard to get night landing done in Srinagar as soon as possible. We are going to build approach lights so that landing takes place in night and they also help in safer landing even in low visibility.
"I have been told that most of the arrangements for night landing have been done and the approach lights will be readied soon and it will be implemented. This will happen in just a few months and should not take more than that," Sinha said.
Sinha said Srinagar needs to be connected directly to other destinations across the country as well as internationally.
"We need to connect Srinagar directly to other major hubs and destinations and these include places like Kuala Lumpur and Dubai.
"I cannot give you a firm commitment on this, but we are going to do our level best to enable Srinagar to get connected towards the east to Kuala Lumpur and we are going to see a possibility to connect you to Dubai as well," he said at the event organised by Foundation for Resource Development and Education (FRDE) at SKICC.
"Of course, we have some over-flight issue as you know, I will try for that. But east is not an issue, therefore as far as Kuala Lumpur is concerned, through Air Asia, I am sure in six months we will have it done," he said.
The Union minister of state for civil aviation said a scheme like Udaan will be devised for connecting Srinagar with other major cities especially in the peak tourist season.
"We were also discussing about ways in which we can connect Srinagar with direct flights particularly during the tourist season to other major cities of this country, so whether it is Ahmedabad or Chennai, these cities deserve direct flights to Srinagar," he said.
The initiative will be sponsored by the Centre and the state in partnership so that more tourists can be brought comfortably to Srinagar, he said.
He said about 40 flights operate at Srinagar airport in the peak season but with these changes, it can have many more flights and that would help tourists, business people and craftsmen to Kashmir.
Sinha also announced that cargo facilities would be expanded at Srinagar airport.
He also said the ministry would explore the possibility of building a pilot training facility in Srinagar and a flight simulator as well.
Asked about the surge in airfare especially during the peak tourist season in the Valley, the Union minister said, "We have investigated the surge in pricing and we found out that only one or two per cent of fares increase whether in Srinagar or elsewhere in the country".
Asked if the civil aviation ministry has discussed with the Ministry of Defence about converting Srinagar airport into a civil airport, Sinha said, "No, I have not discussed this with Ministry of Defence. So I cannot speak on it. But since you have raised this issue.. we will see the status of that."
He said the ministry has undertaken many developmental works at Jammu airport.
"It has a new terminal, now the work on runway will start. There has been an expansion.
"We have held discussions with Chief Minister (Mehbooba Mufti) and her deputy about a new airport in Jammu preferably in Katra so that Vaishno Devi pilgrims are also benefited," he said.
Asked about his father and senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha's statements on Kashmir and his suggestion that the Centre should talk to separatists, the Union minister said he fully supports the policies of the government and his father is free to express his views as an independent person.
"I have full faith and confidence in the prime minister, the home minister and all of the senior leaders of my party. I fully support the policies of the government and I am fully backing all of those policies," he said.
"As far as my father is concerned, he is an independent person, he has his own independent views and of course as a citizen in our democratic country, he has full rights to express his views and pursue his thinking," Jayant Sinha said.
The minister shared many ideas with the audience while speaking on entrepreneurship and assured the business community of government support.