Has India built airports along Indo-China border?- I

Pasighat Airport operational first

Marking a historic moment and milestone for the frontier state of Arunachal Pradesh, Alliance Air ATR-42 aircraft had landed successfully at Pasighat Airport on 23.04.18 paving the way for operation of commercial flights.

“It was lovely flight to Pasighat, we are really proud that we are making history, people of Arunachal are really going to enjoy Alllinace Air,” flight inspector captain NS Lohan had said and appreciated the runaway and infrastructures of terminal building and wished the best for future operations in opening upto the rest of mainland in air connectivity.

Under GoI’s Udaan (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik- let the common citizen of the country fly) scheme to boost regional connectivity, Ministry of Civil Aviation had awarded Alliance Air Kolkata to Pasighat via Guwahati route. Zoom Air and True Jet were allotted to fly to Tezu via Pasighat from August, 2018.

Tezu airport: Union Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu had informed Lok Sabha on 13.12.18 that the AAI has planned construction of a new domestic terminal at, new ATC, technical block, fire station (Cat-IV) and associated facilities to handle around 200 passengers during peak hours.

However, it was reported on 14.12.18 that Zoom Air had bid for the NE routes and Tezu Airport in the second phase under UDAN scheme offering 50% subsidy in air freight. Calcutta to Arunachal Pradesh one-way fare per seat will be Rs 3,100, airline officials had said. However, ZOOM Air had expressed reluctance to operate citing loss in business and speculating non-availability of required passengers. Trujet Airways may operate”, AAI sources had said.

However, Finance Minister Chowna Meing, in his 2018-19 Budget proposals had announced;: “The civil aviation department has also prepared a roadmap of comprehensive connectivity to Mechuka within this financial year through small fixed wing aircrafts and three helicopters to be operated on a viability gap funding model. The GoAP will provide an additional subsidy of Rs. 1500 per trip on existing heli-services. For this purpose, I am making an allocation of Rs. 15 crore under the CM’s Air connectivity scheme. Moreover, Rs. 20 crore is proposed to be earmarked for infrastructure development at various locations for operationalization airports under Udaan scheme.

By Pradeep Kumar

Beyond the Horizon

Had India used its air power, who knows, the result of 1962 war could have been much different? – the view of former IAF chief A Y Tipnis is reminded when one considers if India has built required infrastructures to boost link to strategic Sino-Indian border!

Tipnis, speaking at a seminar ‘India and China: After five decades of 1962 war’ in New Delhi on Nov 20.11.12, had alleged that Nehru had surrendered national security interests to realise his “ambition” to be a world leader.

“Any air action to be taken against the Chinese beyond the limits of our country, e.g, Tibet, will be taken by I.A.F. planes manned by Indian personnel.   India was in total dark about the Chinese intentions, both politically and militarily. Even Indian intelligence was not up to the mark and whatever intelligence came Nehru’s way was discarded by him. If experts are to be believed, IAF was much stronger than the Chinese Air Force back then though things have changed now. Had India used its air power, who knows, the result could have been much different,” Tipnis had added.

Former IAF chief Marshal Norman Anil Kumar Browne was of the same view: The outcome of 1962 Chinese aggression would have been different had India used air power.

Interestingly, after the 2017 China-India border standoff or Doklam standoff in Sikkim, Greenfield Pakyong Airport, first in Sikkim, only 30-km south of Gangtok, was inaugurated on 24.09.18. It is a breathtaking piece of engineering on the roof of the world, located at a height of over 1,400 meters with one of the most dramatic airport approaches on the planet. Pakyong, one of the five highest airports in India, is located around 60-km from Indo-China border.

As Arunachal Pradesh shares 1,080-km border with China, former chief minister Dorjee Khandu had proposed an airport at Tawang and was instrumental in handing over eight advanced landing grounds (ALGs) to Ministry of Defence (MoD) to upgrade to airport to be used for civil and defence purposes as announced by then PM Dr Manmohan Singh on 31.01.08.

There was a proposal to build a STOL (Short take off & landing) airport at Lumla as a boon for security of the nation as Lumla’s weather remains conducive for air operation.

Defence secretary Vijay Singh, leading a high-level central team, had signed the MoU on 09.06.09 with the state’s chief secretary Tabom Bam in presence of CM Khandu and Finance Minister Kalikho Pul. The GoAP agreed to hand over eight unused ALGs – in Walong, Tuting, Vijaynagar, Mechuka and Tawang – all close to the Sino-India border – and in Aalo, Pasighat and Ziro, (HQs of West Siang, East Siang and Lower Subansiri districts) – to meet the defence needs of the country and cater to the need of civilians of the sparsely populated tribal state with poor road connectivity. The GoAP before that had been pursuing the GoI for Tawang and Lumla Greenfield airports for facilitating flow of tourists, various developmental activities as well as for national security.

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