Head to North East this sea­son

In its bid to strengthen the avi­a­tion net­work be­tween the North East and Bangladesh, Cam­bo­dia, Laos, Myan­mar and Viet­nam (BCLMV coun­tries), the Min­istry of Com­merce and In­dus­try, and the In­ter­na­tional Cham­ber for Ser­vice In­dus­try jointly held a con­fer­ence

TravTalk - India - - NEWS - NIKHIL ANAND FROM GUWA­HATI

The con­fer­ence was the need of the hour to sub­stan­ti­ate air con­nec­tiv­ity be­tween the North East re­gion of In­dia and the BCLMV coun­tries. Hav­ing good air con­nec­tiv­ity in this re­gion will pro­vide man­i­fold ben­e­fits across the var­ied sec­tors of the econ­omy in­clud­ing gain­ful em­ploy­ment to peo­ple in the North East. How­ever, pas­sen­gers alone can­not sus­tain the air­crafts, with them the cargo also needs to con­trib­ute; hence we also in­vited Patanjali and other herbal prod­uct com­pa­nies at the con­fer­ence to de­lib­er­ate on the scope of hor­ti­cul­ture, ser­i­cul­ture, agri­cul­ture, flori­cul­ture, etc. through a strength­ened avi­a­tion net­work with our neigh­bours.

There is a huge pas­sen­ger traf­fic com­ing into In­dia from Bangladesh but most of it goes to Kolkata or other places and the North East does not get its share of tourists due to lack of di­rect flights. The jour­ney by road from Dhaka to Guwa­hati is nearly 10 hours and the road from Shil­long to Dawki border es­pe­cially is not very good as it is a 15-20-km stretch of very nar­row road. Pri­vate air­lines from Bangladesh, like Novo Air, have been con­tem­plat­ing but not got a chance to meet the right peo­ple in the In­dian avi­a­tion min­istry yet to as­sure them of the pos­si­bil­ity and prof­itabil­ity of a route aris­ing from this re­gion. I am ex­tremely con­fi­dent that we will launch our maiden flight on the Guwa­hati to Dhaka route in the next two months.

Our aim was to take for­ward the govern­ment’s ‘Look East’ pol­icy and try to de­velop more air con­nec­tiv­ity not only into and be­tween the north east­ern cities but also with the BCLMV coun­tries. I think the North East has huge po­ten­tial in terms of tourism, be it cul­tural, spir­i­tual, ad­ven­ture or her­itage and along with that there is a huge po­ten­tial of hy­dro-elec­tric power be­ing gen­er­ated through the var­i­ous rivers and lakes around. The dia­logues and the de­lib­er­a­tions with BCLMV coun­tries have been very en­cour­ag­ing. We need to have a three-pronged strat­egy here, one in­volv­ing he­li­copters, one in­volv­ing STOL air­crafts and one with reg­u­lar com­mer­cial air­lines. We need a pol­icy that en­com­passes all three, only then can we con­nect all hubs.

The Air­port Au­thor­ity of In­dia has un­der­taken many pro­jects in the North East, of which sev­eral are on the verge of com­ple­tion. In the next cou­ple of months, we are go­ing to com­mence ma­jor ex­pan­sion in the ter­mi­nal ca­pac­ity of the Guwa­hati Air­port. We are mak­ing 1100 crore in­te­grated ter­mi­nal build­ing which will cater to both do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional travel. We have also started an­other 500 crore new ter­mi­nal project in Agar­tala. In ad­di­tion, we are de­vel­op­ing an air­port in Paky­ong, Sikkim which is near­ing com­ple­tion, as is the air­port in Tezu, Arunachal Pradesh and we have also se­lected Ho­longi for an­other air­port. Im­prove­ment in cargo trade is an­other area that we are giv­ing a lot of im­por­tance to in Guwa­hati, Agar­tala and Im­phal. We have formed a new sub­sidiary to fo­cus on it.

This con­fer­ence holds great im­por­tance in con­nect­ing In­dia with all the BCLMV coun­tries. The route be­tween the North East and Viet­nam in par­tic­u­lar holds great po­ten­tial, thanks to the short fly­ing time and we are ac­tively look­ing to ex­plore this fur­ther. Presently, in­fras­truc­ture de­vel­op­ment is very im­por­tant here to bol­ster the foun­da­tion for air con­nec­tiv­ity which will also sub­se­quently help trans­form this re­gion into an eco­nomic hub and at­tract big­ger tourist ar­rivals and busi­ness into the North East. A stronger avi­a­tion net­work would go miles into strength­en­ing the peo­ple-to-peo­ple link­ages as well be­tween our coun­tries and I am hop­ing that in the near fu­ture, the Viet­namese air­lines will look for op­por­tu­ni­ties to con­nect this re­gion with Viet­nam.

The Re­gional Con­nec­tiv­ity Scheme is do­ing great for this re­gion. With the North East in fo­cus of the BCLMV coun­tries, it is now the right time that we, as air­lines, should look into es­tab­lish­ing new con­nec­tions be­tween this re­gion and the BCLMV coun­tries. Of late there has been some con­sid­er­able move­ment into this re­gion with Guwa­hati be­ing the hub but still there is a need of hav­ing a sec­ond hub pos­si­bly in Tezpur or Im­phal. I have been pro­fess­ing for a long time for in­fras­truc­ture to be de­vel­oped to strengthen the North East and the BCLMV cor­ri­dor and along with that there is a need to al­ter the cur­rent poli­cies in favour of smaller car­ri­ers to op­er­ate with­out the re­stric­tions into our bordering coun­tries. It is time to im­prove con­nec­tiv­ity here for both re­gional and in­ter­na­tional in­te­gra­tion.

Pran S. Dasan Chair­man-Avi­a­tion Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee, In­ter­na­tional Cham­ber for Ser­vice In­dus­try

Gulshan Sharma Di­rec­tor-Gen­eral In­ter­na­tional Cham­ber for Ser­vice In­dus­try

Kous­tav M. Dhar Di­rec­tor, Zoom Air

Kazi Mun­tashir Mur­shed As­sis­tant High Com­mis­sioner of Bangladesh, In­dia

Gu­ruprasad Mo­ha­p­a­tra Chair­man Air­port Au­thor­ity of In­dia

Nguyen Le Thanh Coun­selor, Viet­nam Em­bassy in In­dia

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.