Jet hopeful China clearance will come fast


New Delhi : A month after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to China, Beijing has yet to allow Jet Airways for flying to Shanghai and beyond, but the Indian carrier is “not unduly worried” and hopes that issues will be sorted out between the two countries to allow it to operate Mumbai-Shanghai-San Francisco flight.

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“It’s a matter between India and China. The Indian government has already approved it. We are waiting for the permission from China,” an official of Jet Airways, who did not wish to be named, told IANS.

“We are not unduly worried. But we hope that we get the clearance fast,” the official said, while admitting that issues relating to the question of beyond fifth freedom rights in the air bilateral services agreement needs to be resolved.

During the January visit of Manmohan Singh to Beijing, India and China agreed to restrict the right of one carrier from each country to fly to three regions beyond the two countries.

“Right now, we are only asking to fly to the US from China. That’s just one region. China should not have any problem on this score,” he stressed.

Officials of the two sides are planning to meet next month to resolve issues relating to the fifth freedom rights as Beijing first wants to reach an agreement on the three specific regions to which carriers from the two countries can fly from each other’s territory.

But the delay in Chinese clearance is causing some anxiety in South Block as India was prompt in allowing Chinese cargo carrier Great Wall Airlines to fly to Mumbai and Chennai despite security concerns raised by the National Security Council Secretariat and other agencies. In return, China was expected to give a clearance to Jet Airways for flying to Shanghai and beyond.The quid pro quo deal was hailed as a showpiece of rapidly growing business ties between the countries during Manmohan Singh’s visit. Jet Airways chairman Naresh Goyal was part of the high-level business delegation that accompanied the prime minister.

In fact, the ‘deal’ was announced by India’s Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath after the business summit between the countries.

The delay is seen by some as a part of the Chinese tactic of putting India on the defensive, specially in the context of Manmohan Singh’s recent visit to India’s northeast state Arunachal Pradesh which Beijing claims as part of its territory.

China has protested against Manmohan Singh’s visit to Arunachal. Predictably, India has been quick to counter it saying the prime minister has the right to visit any part of India.