The airport in Leh will be vacated by the Air Force which will develop its base at an alternate site in the strategically-located district of Jammu and Kashmir bordering Pakistan and China under an agreement intended to be finalised by this month end.
Similarly, the Army has agreed to vacate a large tract of land presently under its control in Kargil district, adjoining Leh, in Ladakh, which will be used for the expansion of the town. Army will be given alternate land in lieu.
A meeting held by Divisional Commissioner (Kashmir) Asgar Hassan Samoon on Friday was told that IAF has agreed to vacate the Leh airport which will be handed over to the Airports Authority of India for expansion as part of efforts to encourage tourism in Ladakh region, an official spokesman said on Saturday.
The meeting, also attended by officials of IAF, Airports Authority of India and civil administration, was informed that the state government has identified land in lieu of the existing IAF airbase in Leh.
The IAF officials, who attended the meeting, said the alternate site offered by the state government in Leh has been examined by experts and they are ready to take over if the state government finalises the deal.
The Divisional Commissioner was informed that the modalities are being worked out to shift the existing airbase in Leh to Airports Authority of India which will expand it for civilian purposes, the spokesman said.
Samoon said the paperwork to finalise the deals should be done on priority so that it is transferred to the civil government by the end of February.
He said that the transfer agreements should be taken upon priority to fully exploit the huge tourism potential of Leh and Kargil which in turn would generate much needed employment opportunities for local youth, the spokesman said.
Samoon also directed the Airports Authority to explore possibility of starting night operations at Srinagar airport.
The Air Force officials informed Samoon that they have already given in writing that they have no issues if the airport hosts flights during night.
The meeting was attended by Deputy Commissioner Budgam Mir Altaf Ahmad, Senior Manager Airport Authority of India Manjeet Singh, Air Commodore AOC 21 wing, AOC Srinagar and other officers of civil administration and Air Force.