India has granted a 300 million rupee grant to support the renovation of the Jaffna Palaly airport which is expected to be a centre for business and tourist traffic between Sri Lanka’s North and India.
Earlier, the Indian ministry of external affairs (MEA) had stalled the development of the airport due to concerns over political instability.
Civil Aviation authorities plan to develop the airport by building a 3.5 km runway which will carry a single-aisle aircraft into Jaffna; it will be used for budget carriers. Currently, there is only one terminal that has a capacity of approximately 200 people and the Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF) operates the Hercules C130 and Antonov An32 transport aircraft and Helitours run Chinese Xian MA60 type aircraft.
India is interested in developing this airport to have direct flights from Jaffna to Southern Indian states such as Madurai or Tiruchi in Tamil Nadu or Thiruvanathapuram in Kerala. There are further hopes to open flights to China and Australia as part of the second phase of development. These flights will be managed by the Sri Lankan Air Force.
In 2018 the Indian High Commission issued around 15,400 business visas and 121,000 tourists visas from Sri Lanka. Of the majority of the visas issued in Colombo, a third of the business traffic was also found to come mainly from Jaffna and Kandy where Indian consul offices are located.
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