NEW DELHI :
A flight from India landed at the Palaly airfield in Jaffna in northern Sri Lanka on Thursday marking its opening for international flights and passenger traffic for the first time in a decade, Indian officials said.
The Palaly airfield was previously designated a military facility that served the Sri Lankan Air Force during the three decade long civil war. With the war ending in 2009, Sri Lanka, with assistance provided by the Indian government, has upgraded the airfield into the Jaffna International Airport that will be used for civilian traffic. The preliminary pact to develop the airport was signed in 2005. Jaffna in northern Sri Lanka has seen as a key town in the Sri Lankan Tamil dominated region that shares close cultural and religious affinities with India’s more than 70 million Tamils in southern Tamil Nadu state.
The upgradation of the airport comes as China has been making major inroads into Sri Lanka with major infrastructure projects as part of its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative. India has in recent years
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena was at hand to inaugurate airport with the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Ranil Wickremesinghe as well as Arjuna Ranatunga, Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation of Sri Lanka. The inaugural flight was one operated by Alliance Air, a subsidiary of Air India which came in from Chennai.
India’s high commissioner to Sri Lanka, Taranjit Sandhu in his speech said that the inaugural flight was “yet another example of India’s commitment to continue with people-oriented development projects in Sri Lanka."
“It was also a reflection of the shared commitment to further strengthen people-to-people ties between India and Sri Lanka, which lies at the heart of the bilateral relationship," Sandhu said.