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Bilateral air service talks with Germany, Belgium soon

Ashwini Phadnis

New Delhi , May 5

AFTER negotiating a liberal air services agreement with the UK, India has scheduled bilateral air services talks with two more European Union-member countries — Germany and Belgium — later this month.

While this bilateral process is on, the Government is yet to take a firm view on the request of the European Commission to have similar air services agreement with the airlines of other member States as has been agreed to between India and the UK.

Sources told Business Line that talks with Germany would be held in the last week of this month and with Belgium a week earlier. But the Government is yet to formalise its strategy for the negotiations with the two countries, they said, when asked whether the agreements could be as liberal as the one with the UK last month.

India and the UK firmed up a new liberal air services agreement last month. The new memorandum allows India to operate 56 flights from Delhi and Mumbai to London apart from offering unlimited flights from India to the UK from other locations in the country.

Besides, the UK side has been allowed a staggered increase in flights from London to Delhi and Mumbai — 42 in winter this year, 49 in summer 2006 and 56 in winter 2006.

In addition, there can be 14 flights a week from the UK to Bangalore and Chennai and daily flights from the UK to any other Indian city.

On the issue of request of the European Commission, sources said at present India has air services bilateral agreements with individual countries. "But now we are receiving requests from the European nations to have arrangements that will allow an airline of one country in the EU to fly to another country without carrying passengers except from the home country. We will have to examine the entire issue and see what benefits having such an agreement will have for India," sources said.

The European Commission's regulatory arm recently said that the new India-UK aviation accord benefiting airlines such as British Airways must be broadened to cover all the European Union carriers.

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