New Delhi Airport Terminal Parallels India Rise

The new international terminal that will soon open at New Delhi airport is more than just a spectacular building. Its proponents say it marks a coming of age for the aviation business in South Asia.

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India may be among the world's rising economies, but you can't tell that from its international airport in New Delhi. It's decidedly scruffy and hardly befitting an up-and-coming power - something that is about to change. New Delhi is hoping to wow visitors with a brand new international terminal.

NPR's Corey Flintoff reports.

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COREY FLINTOFF: New Delhi's older international terminal already handles millions of passengers each year in a crowded and slightly shabby hall. When it's fully operational, the new $2.7 billion terminal will boost the airport's capacity by tens of millions. When he inaugurated the building earlier this month, India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said it would signal the arrival of a new India and make Delhi a vital international hub.

Singh predicted that the airport's international traffic could exceed 50 million passengers a year by 2020. That would eventually put it in the same league as regional rivals such as Dubai, which already handles nearly 50 million people a year.

Indian officials see the airport as key to attracting international investment to an economy that's growing at 8.5 percent a year, even during the global recession. The terminal welcomed an inaugural Air India flight from New York last week, but regular international operations won't begin until the end of this month. Officials are counting on having the terminal fully functional in time for the opening of the Commonwealth Games in November.

Corey Flintoff, NPR News, New Delhi.

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