Srinagar : The government announcement to start direct international flights between Jammu and Kashmir’s Srinagar and Sharjah in UAE has created quite a buzz among business leaders in the Valley with many hoping this doesn’t remain a mere announcement.
Many such as Sheikh Ashiq, president of Kashmir Chamber Of Commerce and Industry feel that the move will not only give a fillip to traditional Kashmiri handicrafts and businesses but also help attract foreign tourists to the Valley. Dubai to Srinagar international flights operated previously from Srinagar airport but the airlines stopped the operation later. “This time we expect the flight to not only operates between Srinagar and Sharjah but operates at least twice a week,” he says, adding, “It is really great news provided it happens,” he says.
“We are not so sure at the moment if Srinagar-Sharjah flight started operating. Sometimes such statements look more political. But if it does happen, it will help tourism of Kashmir a great deal,” says Nasir Shah, Chairman Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Alliance. Shah tells Outlook that they have heard that GoAir is already working on the plan. “In 2010-2011 Srinagar to Dubai international flight was operating once a week but AirIndia stopped the operation after six months. That shouldn’t happen this time. We have nearly 30,000 to 40,000 Kashmiris working in the UAE only. Lakhs of people from different states particularly from Kerala are working in the UAE and they often purchase packages from Kashmir before visiting their home states. The flights would encourage lot many others to travel to Kashmir from the UAE,” Shah says.
“If it happens it will cut down the commute and transit wait in Delhi or any other metro city that Kashmiris have to take to go to Dubai. Besides, it will be good for Kashmir tourism as travellers from the Middle East can come to Kashmir directly. And finally, Srinagar international airport will be used as an International Airport which has been a much needed and awaited decision that kept on being delayed,” says Nadima Nazir, Managing Director Jamal Carpet Industries.
“Middle Eastern buyers will have more easy access to Kashmir and Kashmir trade. It will give a fillip to the trade as well as tourism and also help students and the NRIs working in the Middle East to travel Kashmir with ease,” she adds.
The annou ncement to open Srinagar-Sharjah flights was made by the government after deliberations between Lieutenant Governor of J&K Manoj Sinha and Union Minister for Civil Aviation, Jyotiraditya M. Scindia last week. Sinha said the Union Minister and J&K government agreed to start the first international flight between Srinagar-Sharjah soon. He said this will have direct international connectivity, a long pending demand of J&K. Scindia also said that special focus is being given on the development of both air and road connectivity in Jammu and Kashmir.
For long mainstream political leaders have been asking for opening direct flights from Srinagar to the Middle Eastern countries. As a member of Parliament, PDP President Mehbooba Mufti had called on the then Union Tourism Minister, Mahesh Sharma in 2015 and sought his intervention in starting international flights from Srinagar Airport. Mehbooba had called for international flights to be operated on Srinagar-Dubai, and Srinagar and Jeddah sectors. As Chief Minister of erstwhile J&K state, Omar Abdullah also had strongly advocated operationalizing international flights by Air India from and to Srinagar Airport.( KINS)