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 Asia. The prime minister spent a larger part of his second day in the Philippines building new bridges with the Asean members and cementing existing relationships with regional partners such as China.
"We in India seek to deepen our economic integration by entering into free trade agreements or comprehensive economic partnership agreements, both with Asean as a whole and with individual countries of the region," he said, addressing the 5th India-Asean Summit in Cebu.
Stressing the need for greater connectivity between India and the region, 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."
Open Skies agreements involve a reduction of government interference in commercial decisions of air carriers, which are often protected by state controls on access of flights from external airlines in the number of flights or destinations.
The plans to forge a free trade agreement with Asean nations moved a notch ahead after trade ministers of the Asean accepted India's proposal to maintain a negative list of 490 items which shall be significantly exempt from the free trade provisions.