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India opens its skies to ASEAN
October 08, 2003 17:41 IST
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Wednesday announced an 'open skies' arrangement with the ten-member ASEAN to allow designated airlines from the regional grouping to run daily flights to India.
"There is a need for increased connectivity between India and ASEAN. The open skies arrangement is a unilateral move by India," Vajpayee told ASEAN leaders during the second India-ASEAN summit in Bali, Indonesia.
The designated airlines could fly daily to and from selected Indian metropolitan cities, Vajpayee said at the daylong closed-door meeting, according to Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal.
Recalling his proposal for India-ASEAN Vision Document, 2020, which is likely to be adopted in the next ASEAN summit in Laos, the Prime Minister also referred to establishment of road and rail links between India and ASEAN members.
Vajpayee also told the leaders of the powerful regional grouping there was great scope for cooperation in the pharmaceutical sector and stressed the need for spirit of accommodation on both sides.
The prime minister also offered flights from ASEAN member nations to 18 tourist destinations in India to improve people-to people connectivity.
Asserting the Joint Declaration on Terrorism and the Framework Agreements reached on Wednesday went beyond the envisaged cooperation with ASEAN, Vajpayee said he was willing to provide 'fast track' tariff concessions unilaterally.
He said these accords negated the impression created by western countries at the Cancun WTO Ministerial that developing countries were unwilling to open their economies.
Global trade, he said, should be based on preferential trade maintaining that the ten-member ASEAN along with India, China, Japan and South Korea could form a strong economic community.
He said India was willing to move at a pace comfortable for the grouping for enhancing economic ties. He also announced training programme for lesser developed members of ASEAN - Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar -- to allow integration within the regional set up.
Referring to his 'open skies' offer, Vajpayee said the designated airlines of the ASEAN members could start daily flights to Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai.
He also proposed an ASEAN-India motor car rally from Guwahati through Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia up to the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi to promote greater connectivity.
Vajpayee suggested a reciprocal arrangement to exempt diplomatic and official passport holders from visa requirements from the 10 countries.
Offering to set up a joint working group on agriculture with ASEAN, Vajpayee said there was enormous scope for cooperation in the pharmaceutical sector as also in tourism.
Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri, Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, Vietnamese Premier Phan Van Khai and other leaders of the grouping lauded India's initiative in arriving at the joint declaration to combat terrorism and signing the framework agreement to usher in a free trade arrangement with the grouping in 10 years.
Sibal told reporters that the steps taken by New Delhi to give a concrete shape to its relationship with ASEAN showed its interest in shaping a long-term strategic partnership with the region.