US chartered plane arrives in Kathmandu via India
A plane belonging to the Vega Air chartered by the US government finally arrived in Kathmandu Wednesday afternoon after being stranded for five days at an Indian airport.
The Indian authorities stopped the Vega Air plane bound for Nepal for five days before allowing it to fly to Kathmandu Wednesday afternoon.
The Hindu, a leading Indian newspaper, reported Wednesday that "an aircraft operated by Vega Airlines, a private Bulgarian cargo company, carrying explosives and ammunition to `combat' the Maoists in Nepal, has been sitting at Ahmedabad airport since Saturday, awaiting permission to fly out to Kathmandu."
It quoted officials from the office of the Director General of the Civil Aviation (DGCA) of India as saying that the aircraft had been sitting in Ahmedabad since the weekend as 'clearance from a number of agencies had to be obtained in such cases.
When contacted after the charted aircraft finally arrived at the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) at around 15:45 hours Wednesday, spokesperson at the US embassy in Kathmandu, Constance Codling Jones, dismissed media reports that said the consignment was for the Royal Nepalese Army and that the equipment were for military purposes.
"The delivery consists of training equipment and it is part of the (US government's) regular training assistance to the Nepal Police," Jones told Nepalnews.
"The US has already provided assistance worth $22 million to Nepal in the last three years to fight terror but as far as today's delivery is concerned, it is not military assistance," she added.
Similarly, talking to Nepalnews Wednesday evening, a senior source at the Royal Nepalese Army refuted reports that the US consignment was meant for the army. "We don't have any information in this regard," he said.
Nepal officials haven't commented on reports that the chartered plane bound for Nepal was stranded at an Indian airport for five days.
Earlier, the Hindu news report also quoted a source in the Indian security establishment as saying that the "ghosts of Purulia," the sensational arms drop in Purulia district of West Bengal state of India in December 1995, had not been forgotten in New Delhi. The fact that the Purulia arms drop was by an AN-26 aircraft, operated by a five-member Latvian crew, is a parallel that few would ignore.
Most of the aircraft in the Vega Air are AN-26's, the report said. The daily also quoted a source saying that detailed procedures had been put in place at Indian airports following the Purulia arms drop, which even entitled (Indian) aviation authorities to ask any aircraft overflying Indian air space to land and match its cargo with its manifest.
In January last year, Indian authorities had stopped a Kathmandu -bound plane carrying 5,500 Minimi machine guns in New Delhi. The Nepal government had bought the weapons from Belgium as part its efforts to augment its military supplies from different countries.
They Indian authorities finally allowed the chartered cargo plane to fly to Kathmandu after hectic diplomatic exchanges for several days between the Nepali and Indian capitals. nepalnews.com by/mbk Sep 29 04
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