Imphal left out of New Delhi’s open sky policy toward SE Asia
By Our Staff Reporter
IMPHAL, Nov 9: Although Manipur has been widely accepted as the gateway to South East Asia, Imphal airport officially named Bir Tikendrajit International Airport has been left out of 18 airports selected from across the country for better air connectivity with South East Asian countries.
With Anup Wadhawan, Additional Secretary, Department of Commerce, Government of India in the chair, a meeting of the Chief Secretaries of the North Eastern States was held at New Delhi in the last week of September.
The meeting deliberated on enhancing air connectivity between India and South East Asia.
Taking due note of the North East region’s hilly terrain and insufficient high- way networks, the meeting discussed about improving intra regional air connectivity, informed a source.
With the primary objective of enhancing air con- nectivity with South East Asia, the Government of India adopted an open sky policy toward South East Asian countries.
Under this policy, 18 airports were selected from across the country for smooth and easy access by aircrafts originating from South East Asian countries. However, Guwahati airport is the only airport from the North East region which has been included among the 18 airports.
Given the North East region’s mountainous topo- graphy, its proximity to South East Asia and its immense tourism potential, the need for enhancing domestic and international flight services in the region has been noted repeatedly, said the source.
On the other hand, it has been reported that there would be no Golden Myanmar flight service from Myanmar to Imphal during this year’s edition of Manipur Sangai Festival.
During the previous editions of the Manipur Sangai Festival, golden Myanmar flights used to bring Myanmarese delegates to the festival and it took tourists from Manipur to Myanmar.
It used to operate another flight from Myanmar during the last days of Sangai Festival bringing back tourists from Manipur who were visiting Myanmar. On the return flight, it would take back Myanmarese delegates who took part in the Manipur Sangai Festival.
Notably, Imphal airport was declared as an international airport by the Ministry of Civil Aviation together with Bhubaneswar airport in 2013.
The only international flight which had landed at Imphal airport since it was declared as an international airport was the Golden Myanmar flight.
KB Enterprise which used to arrange tickets and other necessary processes for the Golden Myanmar flight has confirmed that there would be no Golden Myanmar flight during this Sangai Festival.
Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha inspected Imphal Airport and its infrastructure in August last year.
The Union Minister assured that Air Asia’s international flight service to and from Imphal Airport would be launched soon but so far no international flights operate from Imphal.
Notably, separate departure and arrival terminals, immigration and customs facilities which are said to be prerequisites for an international airport have been already opened at Imphal Airport.
Trade and commercial activities can be promoted to a great extent if international flights are operated from Imphal for the State is quite close to Myanmar’s Yangon and Mandalay, Thailand’s Chiangmai and Chiangrai cities and China’s Kunming, added the source.