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Sri Lanka Snubs India, Says Have No Intention of Handing Over Strategic Palaly Airport

Sri Lankan civil aviation minister said that the airport would be developed in partnership with the Tourism Development Fund and the Civil Aviation Authority.

Aishwarya Kumar | News18.com@aishwaryak03

Updated:September 19, 2018, 2:31 PM IST
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Sri Lanka Snubs India, Says Have No Intention of Handing Over Strategic Palaly Airport
Image for representation. (Reuters)
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New Delhi: Sri Lanka has decided against giving control of Palaly Airport to India just days after the state-run Airport Authority of India made a move to develop it.

Sri Lankan civil aviation minister Nirmal Sripala De Silva told the parliament that the government had no intention of handing over the airport to Indian authorities.

He further said that the airport would be developed in partnership with the Tourism Development Fund and the Civil Aviation Authority.

His statement comes as the AAI, in a statement issued on Monday, said that it has signed an agreement with External Affairs Ministry for "preparation of a Detailed Project Report for development of Palaly airport in Sri Lanka". This would have been the first project for the AAI in the island nation.

Silva, in Parliament, junked the statement and said that not just Palaly, but the government had no intention of handing over Higurakgoda, Baticaloa, Koggala, Digana and Trincomlee airports to other countries and that all the airports would be developed as domestic airports.

AAI’s bid to develop the airport was being seen as a strategic move as Palaly is in Jaffna, a predominantly Tamil territory. It was also dubbed as a move to counter China’s growing presence in the region by developing critical infrastructure.

The handover of the Palaly airport is the latest in the issues that Sri Lanka and India face.

Last month, Silva had told Lankan parliament that the country’s government had asked the Airports Authority of India (AAI) to submit its business plan to operate the loss-making Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport.

However, De Silva’s Indian counterpart Jayant Sinha earlier told Parliament that there was no proposal under consideration for the AAI to buy a controlling stake in the airport. Sinha also clarified that there were no plans for the AAI to build a flying school and a maintenance, repair and overhaul unit at the airport.

However, the confusion refused to die down as just days later, the Ministry of External Affairs said New Delhi was considering Sri Lanka’s proposal.

| Edited by: Sana Fazili
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