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Govt backs Asian 'open skies' regime

The PM is taking forward India's 'look east' policy by builiding economic bridges across our Oriental counterparts, reports Prerna K Mishra.

india Updated: Jan 14, 2007 20:55 IST

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh took forward India's "Look East" policy on Sunday as he sounded positive on a regional "open skies" arrangement that could boost easier flights – and thus, trade – across the populous continent which has emerged as a global economic force in the new century.

The prime minister spent a larger part of his second day in the Philippines building new bridges with the 10-nation Asean members and cementing existing relationships with regional partners including China. Officials said New Delhi will host the next round of Sino-Indian Special Representative (SR)-level talks on January 17-18. 

Dr Singh also accepted Chinese premier Wen Jiabao's invitation to visit China. "We in India seek to deepen our economic integration by entering into free trade agreements (FTA) or comprehensive economic partnership agreements (CEPA), both with Asean as a whole and with individual countries of the region.

This web of mutually beneficial partnerships can, we believe, be brought together in a Pan-Asian FTA that could light up the future of this region," he said, addressing the 5th India-Asean Summit in Cebu.

Stressing the need for greater connectivity between India and the region, Dr Singh said "At our last summit, the Prime Minister of Singapore had proposed that we should now look at an open skies policy. We have examined this proposal and would be willing to engage Asean authorities in a discussion on such a policy."

Earlier in the day, he had bilateral meetings with his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao, President Gloria Arroyo of the Philippines and Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi of Malaysia.

"The meeting with Premier Jiabao was a logical follow up of President Hu Jintao's visit to India. Both the sides urged Sino-Indian Special Representatives to expedite the border talks so that it does not remain an irritant in Sino-Indian relations," said National Security Advisor MK Narayanan. 
 
During the bilateral talks, President Arroyo showed her concern over the breaking up of World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations and stressed the need to restart talks. India reaffirmed its stance that though this was a developmental round in WTO, its content was much more important than the mere conclusion of the round.

President Gloria Arroyo is expected to visit India sometime in the first half of 2007. Referring to the talks with Malaysia, Commerce minister Kamal Nath said that Malaysia has shown a keen interest in joint production of films with the Bollywood industry following an increasing local interest in Indian productions, especially music, in Malaysia.
 
Email Prerna K Mishra: pmishra@hindustantimes.com