Perched on a crag in the Himalayan mountain range, India's 100th airport was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday. Considered an engineering marvel, erected at the height of 4,500ft above sea level and rugged terrain, the spectacular natural backdrop gives the Pakyong airport a picture-perfect finish.
"The Indian Air Force (IAF) will also find this airport convenient for the landing and taking off of its aircraft," Junior Minister Dr. Jitendra Singh in India's Prime Minister Office said.
An official of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) said that state-of-the-art geotechnical engineering, including soil reinforcement and slope stabilization techniques, was used in the construction of the airport.
A look at the making of Sikkim’s first airport by @AAI_Official and the technology that has gone into building it. The airport will be inaugurated @PMOIndia tomorrow. A huge step for Sikkim! @pawanchamling5 pic.twitter.com/nTl8Yi0Ggy— Karma Paljor (@Karma_Paljor) September 23, 2018
The air connectivity is also bound to prove a major boon to the armed forces, which had to otherwise rely on the single-lane highway to transport weapons and tanks to the border with China. Transport of heavy equipment and weapons systems took days at a time. Moreover, the highway remained disrupted through most of the rainy season, with landslides occurring frequently. The unavailability of a nearby airport during last year's military standoff exposed the vulnerabilities of Indian forces.
Sikkim joined the Indian federation in 1975 after the monarchy was deposed following a popular referendum. The entire state of Sikkim is connected to China, Bhutan and Nepal through eight mountain passes.