India on Sunday expressed its interest in building the proposed Khan Jahan Ali Airport at Rampal in Bagerhat and in modernising Saidpur airport in Nilphamari.
Indian high commissioner Harsha Vardhan Shringla expressed it at a meeting with civil aviation and tourism minister Rashed Khan Menon at the ministry.
At a similar meeting on November 21, 2016, India expressed its interest in signing an open sky agreement with Bangladesh promising to liberalise rules and regulations of the international aviation industry and create a free-market environment for the airline industries of the neighbouring countries.
At the latest meeting, the Indian envoy expressed an interest in investment in Khan Jahan Ali Airport and modernisation of Saidpur domestic airport, said a release issued by the ministry.
Saidpur airport is located just beside Saidpur Cantonment.
Shringla told the minister that with the investments, new dimension would be added to investments in air and sea route, trade and tourism, said the release.
Menon later said that they discussed those issues and feasibility study for modernising Saidpur airport was underway while any country might invest in the proposed Khan Jahan Ali Airport project.
The minister and Indian envoy also discussed about launching flights on Guwahati-Dhaka-Bagdogra route.
Prime minister’s economic affairs adviser Mashiur Rahman, who advocated for Rampal power plant near the Sunderbans, was also advocating for Khan Jahan Ali Airport to promote industrialisation in Bagerhat and Khulna region, said a civil aviation ministry official.
Khan Jahan Ali Airport would be constructed at Rampal, 20km south of Khulna city and some 110km from Jessore domestic airport.
In June 2016, mega project at Foyla under Rampal upazila in Bagerhat beside Khulna-Mongla highway was placed on the list of fast track projects, directly supervised by the prime minister.
The airport would be built on 536 acres of land costing Tk 544.75 crore.
In May 2015, the executive committee of the National Economic Council approved the project to be implemented by 2019.
Rampal upazila nirbahi officer Tushar Kumar Pal said that 94 acres of land was earlier acquired for the project while 529 acres of had already been demarcated by the land ministry.
There are three International Airports in the country — Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka, Shah Amanat International Airport in Chittagong and Osmani International Airport in Sylhet.
Five of the 12 domestic airports –– Cox’s Bazar Airport, Shah Makhdum Airport in Rajshahi, Jessore Airport, Saidpur Airport and Barisal Airport — are in operation.
Tejgaon Airport, Bogra Airport and Shamshernagar Airport need approval for air operation while no service is available at Ishwardi Airport in Pabna, Comilla Airport and Thakurgaon Airport.
The Indian high commissioner at the meeting in the past year expressed his country’s interest in civil aviation and tourism industry.
Menon had then said that India made the proposal for open skies policy but ‘our position is different since our aviation industries are not capable enough to go by the policy.’
Bangladesh in April planned to revise its air service agreement with India to double the existing flight frequencies as number of passengers between the two countries kept rising.
The Indian envoy raised the issue of reviewing air services agreement on Sunday also while the minister assured him of revising the agreement, said the release.
An official said that until the agreement is signed, Temporary Operation Permits would allow each country to operate 120 flights instead of existing 61 in a week.
Bangladesh and India signed air services agreement on May 5, 1978. It allows each country to operate flights to major cities reciprocally.
Bangladeshi operators said that they were not ready to compete with India’s booming aviation industry.
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