New Delhi: The Civil Aviation Ministry is revising a note for the Union Cabinet on the enhanced bilateral air traffic rights between India and Abu Dhabi, following concerns raised by some political leaders over it.
But there is no question of revising the number of seats already agreed upon with Abu Dhabi under the bilateral air traffic agreement in April. Under an MoU, both sides had decided to increase the number of seats by 36,670 seats per week over three years, taking the total to 50,000.
"There is no question of revising the bilaterals," Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh said when asked whether there was any possibility of slashing the number of seats.
"Looking at the growth in air traffic out of India, in fact we might have to give more bilaterals (to various countries)," he said.
Official sources said an international agreement between two sovereign nations cannot be changed unilaterally as any such move would be a violation of its international commitment. It could have serious implications for India in the international community, even to the extent of the matter being dragged to the International Court of Justice.
The note for the Cabinet, which is being revised, would include the concerns raised by various quarters and flagged by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and the Ministry's point-by -point responses to them, the sources said.
An air services bilateral between two countries allows their designated airlines to increase the number of flights operated between them.
After several political leaders raised objections to the enhancement of the bilateral rights soon after the Rs 2,058 crore stake sale deal between Jet Airways and Abu Dhabi carrier Etihad, the PMO came out with a statement rebutting their charges.
The PMO, which wanted the note prepared for Cabinet approval to be modified, sent it back to the Civil Aviation Ministry on June 13 to redraft it.
"Nowhere was there a suggestion to change the decision sought in the note, which is the ex-post facto approval of the MOU," the PMO statement had said.
Maintaining that there were no differences within the government over the air services agreement, the statement had said the Prime Minister wanted the agreement to be discussed before the Cabinet on the basis of a revised note which would take into considerations the issues flagged by him.
He had also directed that the agreement should not be operationalised till it was discussed in the Cabinet.
A source said "we have no hesitation in saying that this agreement is good for India."
Once finalised, the note would be sent by the Civil Aviation Ministry to the PMO and the Cabinet Secretariat to be placed before the Cabinet, they said, adding that the ministry could send the note within this month itself.
Quoting official figures, the sources said in the next seven years Indians flying abroad would double to 80 million. Except for Jet Airways and Air India, no other Indian carrier has large aircraft to carry passengers on long-haul routes to Europe, the US, Canada, Australia and Africa.
In such a situation why should Indian passengers and the economy suffer due to lack of adequate global air connectivity, the sources pointed out.
The figures showed that between 2005-06 and 2011-12, the number of flights deployed by Indian carriers for North America rose from 31 per week to 49 and Europe from 59 to 84.
The number of seats deployed by Indian airlines to the Middle East was 34,691 in 2005-06 to 87,598 in 2011-12.
The sources said the increase in the number of flights mounted by Indian airlines have benefited both Indian passengers and airlines.