The government of India’s northeastern state of Manipur is looking to establish direct flights to Myanmar as part of the Indian government’s “look east” policy, top officials said.
The plan comes as Myanmar’s private carrier Golden Myanmar is scheduled to begin operating flights to Tulihal airport at Manipur’s capital Imphal. Golden Myanmar’s A320 Airbus from Mandalay will land at Tulihal on November 21 on a trial run with the Mandalay region chief minister Ye Myint and his Sagaing region counterpart Tha Aye on board. The 24 delegates from Myanmar would attend Manipur’s Sangai Festival, an annual cultural event.
“We are exploring the possibility of a direct flight to Myanmar after the civil aviation ministry elevated Tulihal as an international airport,” principal secretary of Manipur’s Commerce and Industries department O Nabakishore Singh told IANS.
Singh said the aviation ministry is “already in a dialogue” with private Indian airline Indigo to start a service between Tulihal and Yangon. However, Indigo is yet to respond, he added.
“If we cannot operate direct flights with our neighbouring country then declaring Tulihal as an international airport would be just in name,” he was quoted as saying.
He said connectivity would help the people of Manipur and Myanmar in trade, medical treatment and tourism.
Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh said Manipur will soon become a significant regional hub for international flights to Southeast Asian countries, with Guwahati international airport, the primary international airport of the northeastern states of India in its state of Assam, already having direct flights with Bhutan and Thailand.
He said introduction of flights between Imphal and Myanmar’s Monywa, Mandalay, Kalemyo and Yangon would boost trade, tourism, business and investment.
“It will be a trial operation for Golden Myanmar to Tulihal airport. We are all keeping our fingers crossed and hoping that our dream of connecting Manipur with Myanmar by air would be a reality,” Ibobi Singh was quoted as saying.
India and Myanmar share a 1,643-km unfenced border.