The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Eastward ho for airline

Washington, Oct. 13: Air India is lending its wings to a major initiative by the Centre to spread the benefits of its Look East policy across the eastern region.

Connectivity was crucial to ensure gains for the region from the Look East policy, Air India chairman and managing director V. Thulasidas said today.

With this in view, Air India Express, a wholly owned subsidiary of Air India, will soon start flights from Calcutta to Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Dhaka.

A week ago, Air India Express launched its service from Calcutta to Singapore in an initiative to expand the wings of its subsidiary carrier to the eastern region, Thulasidas said.

He was in Washington DC to sign an agreement with the Export-Import Bank (EXIM Bank) of the US for a $1.23-billion finance package to enable Air India to buy Boeing aircraft.

The package represents the first tranche of financing arrangements for Air India’s biggest order ever for 68 Boeing aircraft. The $1.23-billion package will cover the purchase of 17 planes, but it is understood that EXIM Bank will extend similar guarantees for the entire Boeing order, estimated to cost around $11 billion.

Thulasidas said Air India Express now proposes to make deeper forays into the eastern region. Air India’s efforts come at a time when the DoNER ministry and the ministry of external affairs, along with industry organisations, such as the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Indian Chamber of Commerce, are engaged in co-ordinated efforts to promote the Northeast in locations such as New York and Bangkok.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has signalled his personal support to such initiatives, underlining the fact that he has been elected to Parliament from Assam, which he now describes as “home”.

Thulasidas, who was earlier chief secretary of Tripura, is acutely aware of the Northeast’s connectivity problems and their adverse impact on sub-regional co-operation in the context of the Look East policy. DoNER minister Mani Shankar Aiyar said last week that unless India’s relations with Bangladesh, China and Myanmar make headway, the region will not benefit.

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