When the Union government recently announced that airports would hereon be named after cities, not personalities, it had hoped that this would end the dispute between Punjab and Haryana over the international airport at Chandigarh. The row may linger on, though.

The wrangle between the neighbouring states over the airport in their joint capital started a while ago. Punjab, which had initiated the move to get an international airport in Chandigarh in 2009, suggested that it be named after freedom fighter Shaheed Bhagat Singh.

At first, Haryana agreed. But then, in a turnaround, the Bharatiya Janata Party of Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar suggested to the Centre that the airport be christened after late Dr Mangal Sein, a former Haryana deputy chief minister and a leader of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

Haryana finally relented after a spate of agitations in Punjab and protestations of Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, an ally of the BJP – the government said it had no objections to the airport being named after Bhagat Singh. Further, to diffuse this controversy and similar ones in the country, the central government decided to refrain from naming any airport after a personality.

However, the dispute may not fade away soon. While Punjab insists on including Mohali – where the international terminal is located – in the international airport’s name, Haryana is standing firm on its demand that it should be called just Chandigarh International Airport.

As long as the airport served only domestic traffic, there were no arguments. It was located in Chandigarh and it was called Chandigarh Airport.

No international flights

But after Punjab’s proposal to convert the airport into an international one was accepted, everyone realised there wasn’t enough land for a new international complex. As a way out, Punjab offered land in its jurisdiction, on the other side of the airstrip, adjoining Mohali township. When Punjab announced its decision to fund the project with the Airports Authority of India, Haryana said it too would like to join hands since the airport was to be used by its residents as well and because the airstrip was in the joint capital. It was then decided to form a joint venture, with Punjab and Haryana contributing 24.5% each and the Airports Authority of India pitching in with 51%.

The dispute over the name and mention of Mohali arose even before the new terminal complex was completed last year. It was still unresolved when Prime Minister Narendra Modi formally inaugurated the complex on September 11 last year.

The Punjab government, which is showcasing the airport as its achievement, continues to insist that Mohali should be part of the name. Haryana, on the other hand, continues to oppose the move. And the signboards continue to describe it as Chandigarh International Airport.

Four months after the international terminal complex's inauguration, no international flight has so far landed or taken off from there. Meanwhile, the domestic terminal has been shifted to the international one. This is mainly because of clearances required and restrictions for long haul flights due to the current length of the runway. It is proposed to increase the length of the runway.

The first international flight slated to land at the airport will be that of French President Francois Hollande, who is arriving in Chandigarh on January 24 on his way to the national capital to be the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations.