Last week, Myanmar’s private airlines Air KBZ kicked off a chartered flight service from Manipur’s state capital Imphal to Myanmar’s second-largest city Mandalay.
On the inaugural flight that flew in on Saturday, officials said, 72 passengers from Myanmar came to Manipur while it departed from Imphal with 48 passengers, including five officials. The maiden flight was welcomed with the traditional water cannon salute, with its photos and videos shared widely on social media.
What exactly is the service?
Manipur education minister Thokchom Radheshyam has said that the chartered flight will be operational thrice a month. He added that the state government is persuading the Ministry of Civil Aviation for granting regular Imphal-Mandalay flight service.
The service is expected to transform the transportation network through Northeast India and boost the regional economy. Mandalay is an important economic centre of Myanmar and the flight service is said to be benefiting both traders and tourists.
“Right now, the service is a chartered flight service. Once it is regularised, then pricing and ticketing will become standardised. It will really help people. Imphal will become an important part of the international travel route,” a top Manipur government official told indianexpress.com over the phone.
What is the importance of this flight service?
The commencement of this flight service comes in the line of a series of endeavours undertaken by state governments of the Northeastern states to further the Act East Policy of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government and improve the connectivity of South East Asian countries with Northeast India.
Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh wrote about the starting of the flight services on Facebook, “Hon’ble PM Modi ji’s Act East policies becoming more visible and effective! As promised to the people of the State, flight from Mandalay to Imphal have started from today! …Thanks to Hon’ble Civil Aviation Minister and central leaders for the support. And also thanks to the private company for the initiative.”
What other forms of connectivity between Northeast and neighbouring countries are there?
This year, Assam rolled out flight services from Guwahati to Bangkok (by Nok Air) and Dhaka (by SpiceJet). Guwahati is also connected to Paro in Bhutan. Government officials say that plans are afoot to connect Guwahati to capitals of other ASEAN countries soon by air.
Manipur is already connected to Myanmar by road, as is Bangladesh to Meghalaya and Tripura. India’s access to Bangladesh’s Chittagong port via Tripura is in the pipeline, so is the completion of the Agartala-Akhaura international railway project that will connect Bangladesh railway track with North-East Frontier Railways.
Moreover, in June this year, the Manipur Chief minister had said that the formalities for the launch of a bus service between Mandalay and Imphal is being finalised.
Don’t miss from Explained: All you need to know about the Rohtang Tunnel