Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Harsh Vardhan Shringla has said their increased interest in the airlines routes between Bangladesh and India is in tandem with the progress made by trade, commercial and people-to-people ties between the two countries.
At a launching ceremony of IndiGo flight on Dhaka-Kolkata-Dhaka route on Tuesday, Shringla said when it comes to the civil aviation sector, both of the countries will need to keep pace with the rapid growth and changes that are being observed in their bilateral relations.
IndiGo, the largest low-cost carrier of India, is set to make a debut in Bangladesh on August 1 this year.
Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister AKM Shajahan Kamal attended the function as the chief guest.
Civil Aviation and Tourism Secretary Md Mohibul Haque, Chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB), Air Vice Marshal M Naim Hassan and Chief Commercial Officer IndiGo William Boulter also attended the function.
The high commissioner said in recent times, India has taken several measures to liberalize their visa regime to smoothen the process of travel of tourists and businessmen from Bangladesh to India.
Bangladesh is now one of the biggest sources of tourist arrivals in India- accounting for over 16% of total tourist arrivals there, Shringla said. Bilateral trade has also increased substantially, crossing $9 billion milestone in the year 2016-17, he added.
The two countries also inaugurated the largest Indian Visa Application Centre in the world during Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s visit to Bangladesh this month.
The high commissioner said the centre will further add to the convenience of Bangladeshis planning to visit the neighbouring country.
He said partnership between the two countries will augment the aviation infrastructure, thus increasing the growth in air traffic.
The Indian diplomat said his country is already working with Bangladesh to develop the infrastructure at Saidpur Airport under its third Line of Credit.
Shringla emphasized upon the Indian private sector’s partnerships with Bangladeshi stakeholders for modernization of airports in Bangladesh. “It would contribute to improving passenger comfort and convenience, and also to revenues of the civil aviation authority of Bangladesh,” he said.
In this context, the high commissioner said, it would be useful to have civil aviation consultations between the two countries to discuss various issues, including capacity entitlement- currently at 61 frequencies per week for each country; updating the bilateral agreement on air services and possibility of implementing an open skies policy.
Shringla said he was certain Bangladesh’s advent would provide travellers with greater options, convenience and more competitive fares. He also asked to consider opening other sectors in cities in India which are not connected to Bangladesh by air services.
The high commissioner said tremendous progresses have been made in improving connectivity between the two countries by facilitating creation and improvement of multimodal transport links.
“The launch of the IndiGo flight today is another milestone towards meeting the objective of improving connectivity,” he said.
Currently, there are around 100 flights operating weekly between Bangladesh and India, connecting various Indian cities like New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai to Dhaka and Chittagong.
Shringla said the new flights between different destinations in Bangladesh and India will further propel trade, tourism, cultural exchanges and communication between them.
The entry of more airlines will also foster greater competition- thereby generating more value for the customers, he added.
Chief Commercial Officer, IndiGo, William Boulter said IndiGo will be operating daily flights between Dhaka and Kolkata. By adding Dhaka to its network, IndiGo will further augment the regional connectivity that the airlines aspire to provide to the customers as a low-cost carrier, he said.