Nepal-Sri Lanka Joint Commission Explores Direct Flight Link Between Lumbini and Colombo to Deepen Ties

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Discussions between Nepal and Sri Lanka unfolded during the inaugural meeting of the Nepal-Sri Lanka Joint Commission (JC) in Kathmandu on Thursday, focusing on the prospect of establishing direct flights between Lumbini and Colombo to enhance connectivity between the two nations.

Foreign Minister Narayan Prakash Saud and Sri Lankan counterpart Mohammad Uvais Mohammad Ali Sabry engaged in talks, expressing positive inclinations towards the idea of air connectivity between Colombo and Gautam Buddha International Airport in Lumbini. While no concrete decisions were reached, officials from both sides conveyed a shared willingness to materialize the proposal in the near future.

Recognizing that over 70 percent of Sri Lanka's population follows Buddhism, Nepal envisions that direct flights between Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha, and Colombo could significantly boost the movement of people between the two countries, fostering stronger bilateral relations.

The meeting revisited the Air Services Agreement (ASA) signed in March 2009 in Kathmandu, aiming to augment tourism through direct air links between Kathmandu and Colombo. Presently, Sri Lankan Airlines operates direct flights on this route. Mohammad Uvais Mohammad Ali Sabry, Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister, is on a four-day visit to Nepal for the JC meeting, aligning with the agreement established during President Mahinda Rajapaksa's visit to Nepal in March 2009.

Covering various facets of bilateral relations, the JC meeting delved into topics such as trade, finance, agriculture, industry, infrastructure development, science and technology, and investment. Both countries, as founding members of SAARC and participants in BIMSTEC, emphasized the importance of regional cooperation.

Issues including the potential transfer of three Nepali nationals currently incarcerated in Sri Lanka, climate change, and climate justice were also on the agenda. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on cooperation in science, technology, and innovation was signed, reflecting a comprehensive approach to bilateral relations, addressing key areas crucial for the development and collaboration between Nepal and Sri Lanka.

The Nepali delegation, led by Foreign Minister Saud, included Foreign Secretary Sewa Lamsal, Nepal's Ambassador to Sri Lanka Basudev Mishra, and officials from various ministries. On the Sri Lankan side, Foreign Minister Mohammad Ali Sabry headed the delegation, accompanied by Sudarshana Pathirana, the Sri Lankan Ambassador to Nepal, and senior officials from the foreign ministry.

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