India on Monday expressed its intention to sign an open skies agreement with Bangladesh promising to liberalise rules and regulations of the international aviation industry and create a free-market environment for the airline industries of the neighbouring countries.
Indian high commissioner Harsha Vardhan Shringla expressed his country’s interest to Bangladesh civil aviation and tourism minister Rashed Khan Menon in a meeting at the ministry.
Menon said that India made the proposal for open skies policy but ‘our position is different since our aviation industries are not capable enough to go with the policy.’
According to aviation sector insiders, the primary objectives of open skies are to liberalise the rules for international aviation markets and minimise government intervention as it applies to passenger, all-cargo, and combination air transportation as well as scheduled and charter services.
‘It will allow India to operate unlimited number of flights to and from Bangladesh and beyond, destroying our market,’ an aviation expert said.
Bangladesh currently has air service agreement with India allowing more than 60 flights – both passengers and cargos – to and from both countries in a week.
The officials said that the Indian high commissioner’s meeting was meant for upcoming prime minister-level meeting between the two countries expected to be held in New Delhi on December 18.
Indian daily The Hindu reported on June 16 that India approved the country’s first National Civil Aviation Policy and would make an open skies policy for countries beyond the 5,000km radius from New Delhi on a reciprocal basis with a view to have unlimited access of their airlines from European or SAARC countries, leading to increased flight frequencies with these countries.
With tiny fleets of two dozen carriers, Bangladeshi airlines — Biman Bangladesh Airlines, Novo Air, Regent Airways and US-Bangla — either operate flight or are planning to operate Indian destination while Jet Airways with 117 aircrafts and Air India with 118 aircrafts operate almost regular flight. Air India Express on Sunday re-started low cost Dhaka-Kolkata flights four times a week with connection to Singapore.
SpiceJet with 42 aircrafts will start operation in Dhaka and Chittagong in December.
India’s biggest aviation venture Indigo with existing 119 aircraft and 420 aircrafts on order is schedule to start operation in Bangladesh from March.
Some 1,75,199 passengers travelled on air between India and Bangladesh in third quarter in this year.
A release issued by the ministry on Monday said that Shringla discussed with the minister over launching flights from Dhaka-Delhi, Dhaka-Bangalore and Dhaka-Gowhati routes.
According to the release, the Indian envoy said that if passengers from Shillong, the capital of Indian northeast state Meghalaya, could use MAG Osmani International Airport in Sylhet, they could comfortably travel to London. They also could travel to tourist city Cox’s Bazar from Sylhet, it read.
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