India's new civil aviation policy offers an open-sky policy covering the SAARC countries while it seeks a restrictive policy for countries that are within 5,000 kms from India. Examine the rationale while elucidating India's open sky pacts.

An efficient civil aviation sector is important for India as it is inter-linked with other sectors in the economy. In order to provide a boost to aviation sector & to enhance regional connectivity, New Civil Aviation policy introduced the concept of “open sky pact”. Under open sky pact agreement, two countries allow airlines from both sides to operate any number of flights to each other’s cities on a reciprocal basis. India recently signed such open sky pacts with Greece, Jamaica, Guyana, the Czech Republic, Finland, Spain and Sri Lanka and most recently with Japan.
Though the policy is liberal for SAARC & beyond 5000 KM nations, however, it is a restrictive policy for countries who are within 5,000 km from India. For such nations, the policy proposed auctioning of bilateral rights in case foreign carriers who seek flights beyond existing quota. Till now the government has not approved this proposal. The policy also mandates 80% utilization of bilateral seat rights by Indian carriers in order to provide any further increase in flying rights. This has extended the wait for nations like Qatar and Turkey who were looking for an increase in flying rights. This was done to prevent the lop-sided utilization of flying rights.
Open sky pact can play a vital role in forging the economic relationship. Since the policy will help in reduction of air fares, subsequent steps should be taken to improve tourism and other economic ties with these nations.

Question for UPSC Mains:
India's new civil aviation policy offers an open-sky policy covering the SAARC countries while it seeks a restrictive policy for countries that are within 5,000 kms from India. Examine the rationale while elucidating India's open sky pacts. TOI

Published: September 4, 2017 | Modified:June 27, 2019

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