India has reportedly requested Dhaka to expand its Agartala airport into the Bangladesh territory to upgrade the airport to international standards, Bangladesh officials said.
The home minister, Asaduzzaman Khan, told New Age that Dhaka has not made any decision yet on the proposal. According to media reports, the foreign ministry held a meeting in October with other relevant ministries and intelligence agencies to evaluate if and how Bangladesh provide land to India for the expansion of Agartala Airport.
The report by New Age quoting Bangladeshi officials stated that aircraft from Kolkata and Guwahati needed to use the Bangladesh airspace during take-off and landing at Agartala airport.
India first made the proposal in July 2018 to Bangladeshi officials and New Delhi has requested to make a formal proposal to Dhaka for evaluation.
Two senior officials who attended the meeting at the foreign ministry in October 2018 said that a military official detailed security issues of the sharing of the Bangladesh territory with India.
‘We also discussed how the airport would be managed and whether the bordering land would be leased out and what might be the process if the government wanted to share the land with India,’ one official said.
Another official who attended the meeting drew a map and showed if the Agartala airport was extended, India would install lights inside the Bangladesh territory and would fence it for airport security.
The foreign secretary, Shahidul Haque, said, ‘No decision has yet been made. A number of ministries are related to the issue and the ministries are coordinating themselves on the issue.’
He said that all who attended the meeting in October 2018 received the Indian proposal positively. ‘Everyone thinks that part of our land will be well connected.’
At the meeting, he also argued that Geneva International Airport falls partly in Switzerland and partly in France, he added.
Whether allowing the land would affect national security, the foreign secretary said that people related to security issues would decide the matter. ‘I have seen it from a broader perspective and also in terms of business and mobility.’
He argued that there were cross-border airports in different countries. ‘Many countries use the same airport.’ However, experts questioned the proposal and argued that Europe and South Asia were not similar in terms of, among others, border management, immigration system or currency policy.
They questioned whether the airport would be managed by both the countries or it would be a joint venture. ‘If it is a joint venture, then we can consider,’ stated the experts, ‘otherwise, it is not logical.’
Former civil aviation minister Rashed Khan Menon, also the Workers Party of Bangladesh president, was surprised at the proposal. ‘How can an airport be expanded into my country? The government will face stiff resistance on the issue. This is not logical considering political, economic and aviation affairs,’ he said.
‘We should expand our airports, not other’s. Our people should not go to Kolkata via Agartala. I want to go to Kolkata from here. I want seven sister states of India to use Sylhet airport to reach other states in India,’ Menon said.