In what could serve as a boost to India's 'Look East' policy, the Manipur government is exploring the possibility of direct flights operating to Myanmar, even as private carrier Golden Myanmar begins operating flights Nov 21 to the Tulihal airport here.
"We are exploring the possibility of a direct flight to Myanmar after the civil aviation ministry elevated Tulihal as an international airport," Principal Secretary (Commerce and Industries) O. Nabakishore Singh told IANS.
"We are already in a dialogue with (private Indian airline) Indigo to start a service between Tulihal and Yangon," Nabakishore Singh told IANS. Indigo was, however, yet to respond.
"If we cannot operate direct flights with our neighbouring country then declaring Tulihal as an international airport would be just in name," Nabakishore Singh said, while stressing that connectivity would help the people of Manipur and Myanmar in trade, medical treatment and tourism.
"With Guwahati international airport already having direct flights with Bhutan and Thailand, I am sure Manipur will soon become a significant regional hub for international flights to Southeast Asian countries," Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh said.
Moreover, he said, introduction of flights between Imphal and Monywa, Imphal and Mandalay, Imphal and Yangon and Imphal and Kalemyo would promote trade, tourism, business and investment.
Ibobi singh said that the flights would facilitate movement of people round the year.
The silver lining is that a Golden Myanmar A-320 from Mandalay will land at Tulihal Nov 21 on a trial run with the Mandalay Region Chief Minister Ye Myint and his Sagaing Region counterpart Tha Aye on board.
The 24 delagates from Myanmar would attend Manipur's Sangai Festival, an annual cultural event.
"It will be a trial operation for Golden Myanmar to Tulihal airport. We are all keeping our fingers cross and hoping that our dream of connecting Manipur with Myanmar by air would be a reality," Ibobi Singh said.
India and Myanmar share a 1,643-km unfenced border.
(Raymond Kharmujai can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)