Pokhara International Airport: A Dream Yet to Take Off

Pokhara International Airport: A Dream Yet to Take Off

The Pokhara International Airport, a project initially brimming with hope, has become a topic of mixed emotions in Nepal. Construction, funded by a Chinese loan in March 2016, began with the vision of boosting tourism in Pokhara, a breathtaking region famed for its mountain vistas, lakes, and natural beauty. Local Pokharalis (people from Pokhara) and many Nepalis across the country believed this ambitious project, inaugurated in January 2023 by Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal "Prachanda," would unlock a wave of jobs and economic development.

However, the dream hasn't fully materialized. Despite boasting the infrastructure for international flights, including a long runway, separate terminals, and an advanced air traffic control system, the airport hasn't seen regular international operations. As of July 2024, there was only one chartered flight from China in June 2023. The lack of international flights and a plane crash shortly after the opening, attributed to incomplete instrument flying procedure (IFR) certification, have limited its functionality.

China's Involvement and Public Perception

The inauguration ceremony itself hinted at underlying complexities. While the Chinese Ambassador to Nepal, Chen Song,hailed the project as a "flagship project" of China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in January 2023, Prime Minister Prachanda remained silent, unable to respond. This silence resonated with concerns raised by a vocal minority in Nepal about potential "debt trap diplomacy," where large loans become tools for Chinese political influence. Additionally,anxieties regarding "wolf warrior diplomacy," a more assertive approach by China, and potential biases in Chinese funding and construction practices added to the public discourse.

Nepal's relationship with China has traditionally been positive. However, the Pokhara International Airport project, with its limitations and the Ambassador's statement, has introduced new elements to consider in Nepal-China relations. The project's future success hinges on attracting regular international flights and ensuring financial sustainability, turning the initial dream into a reality for Pokhara and Nepal's tourism industry.

Pokhara Airport China In Nepal Prachanda

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