Amid pouring rain, an ATR 72-600 aircraft of Alliance Air, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Air India, completed its maiden international flight and touched down at the Jaffna International Airport, marking an important moment in Sri Lanka’s Tamil-majority Northern Province.
The flight carried Ashwani Lohani, Air India chairman and managing director; C.S. Subbiah, Alliance Air CEO; a delegation of Air India staff and a few Indian journalists. They landed a few minutes after President Maithripala Sirisena inaugurated the airport complex by unveiling a plaque.
“India has been helping us in the development of war-affected Jaffna. There is tremendous potential for collaboration between India and Sri Lanka, especially South India and Jaffna,” Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said.
Commending the roles of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, External Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar and the Civil Aviation Ministry, Mr. Wickremesinghe said, “I hope this is the beginning to fly to Batticaloa and as you have requested, we granted you permission to fly to Colombo and back. So we hope to see the full programme being implemented.”
Calling for a closer relationship between India and Sri Lanka, Mr. Wickremesinghe said it would lead to economic development of both the countries. “Whatever issues we have, we must settle by discussing among ourselves, bilateral issues bilaterally and regional issues regionally. We cannot afford to go to war, we can’t afford to clash,” Mr. Wickremesinghe said.
“With the inauguration of the airport and the touchdown of our aircraft, our relations have truly touched the sky. Our projects in Sri Lanka have a direct impact on the lives of the common people,” Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Taranjit Singh Sandhu said.
Flights between Chennai and Jaffna are scheduled to begin from November 1.