India, Myanmar control parts of Bangladesh airspace

Shahidul Islam Chowdhury | Published: 00:18, Mar 03,2021


India and Myanmar have been controlling sections of Bangladesh airspace over the territorial sea of the country from Kolkata and Yangon respectively for several decades.

Some air routes over the territorial sea of Bangladesh are under the Kolkata Flight Information Region and the Yangon FIR due to lack of capacity of the radars of the Dhaka FIR, Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh chairman Air Vice Marshal M Mafidur Rahman told New Age over phone on February 23.

The air traffic control in Kolkata in India — Kolkata FIR—enjoys the leverage of challenging Bangladesh aircraft, civil and military, flying in the sky over the territorial sea to the south of the Sundarbans, said civil aviation ministry officials.    

The air traffic control in Yangon of Myanmar, Yangon FIR, also enjoys identical leverage in the sky of areas, including part of Bandarban and the Saint Martin’s Island.    

For instance, the air traffic control in Yangon contacted a Bangladesh Air Force helicopter, which was carrying a top government official with military background, and sought an explanation about the legality of flying in the sky over the St Martin’s Island in late 2019, said an official.

The management of the airspaces, which are under Kolkata FIR and Yangon FIR, is incompatible with the sovereignty of the country, according to a senior official with military background.

Bangladesh aircrafts also require paying the fees, mostly to the Kolkata FIR, for flying using the air routes, said civil aviation ministry officials.    

Bangladesh has also been losing a large amount of revenue payable for flying through the air routes in both the sections of the airspace, they said.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh has overlooked the entire matter for several decades, knowingly or unknowingly, on an excuse that both the areas are beyond the range of radars installed under the Dhaka FIR, they said.

The CAAB chairman said that the government had raised the matter at a platform of Bangladesh, India, Myanmar and Thailand, known as BIMT, for controlling regional air routes, about a year ago, expressing intent to bring in the areas under the Dhaka FIR.

The government has started a process for procuring a set of radars, he said. 

However, these things should be resolved through the International Civil Aviation Organisation in consultations with countries concerned, in this case India and Myanmar, the CAAB chief added.

The Bangladesh authorities have sought amendments to the mechanisms of controlling air routes in line with the ICAO Convention 1944.

The Myanmar side ‘has agreed in principle’ to consider the amendment sought by the Bangladesh side, while the Indian side sought a formal proposal through diplomatic channels, said officials.

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