11:48 GMT19 January 2021
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    India has proposed an air connectivity scheme linking towns in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal, which are part of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) with India. As is obvious, this group doesn’t include Pakistan.

    New Delhi (Sputnik) — The proposed scheme will be based on India's UDAN scheme which provides a ticket for an hour's flight for approximately US$ 38. UDAN is considered one of the cheapest air connectivity schemes aimed to bring smaller cities on aviation route for the economic uplift of a region.

    "It is worth considering whether we can work with countries that are in the BIMSTEC to see whether we can create a policy package that will enable us to connect smaller towns across the entire BIMSTEC region," Jayant Sinha, India's Minister of State for Civil Aviation, said in New Delhi

    The proposal has not been formally offered to BIMSTEC but Sinha suggested an agreement with various countries to provide financial aid to roll out the scheme. "We can sign a MoU with different countries to be able to provide support for an UDAN-type scheme across the BIMSTEC community. Of course, we will have to couple that with something like an Open Sky Agreement so that airlines can fly freely."

    India expects such air connectivity will encourage high-value travelers and allow free movement for businesspersons. Over the last two years, India has started favoring BIMSTEC in place of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in a bid to isolate Pakistan.

    India will conduct the first-ever international conclave on BIMSTEC from November 2 to 4, 2017, in Guwahati under the overarching theme of ‘BIMSTEC: An Enabling Architecture for Growth, Prosperity and Partnerships'. India is already developing railways and roadways network to reach out to countries in Southeast Asia. India has already planned a Southeast Asian connectivity project connecting Moreh in India to Mae Sot in Thailand via Myanmar in 2002, years ahead of China's One Belt, One Road.

    BIMSTEC had identified 14 keys sectors for cooperation and India would lead the group in transportation & communication, tourism, environment and disaster management, and counter-terrorism and transnational crime.


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