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India, US Sign Open Skies Agreement

India and the United States signed a far-reaching open skies agreement in New Delhi Thursday that is expected to facilitate direct air links, improve frequencies and lower the cost of air travel between the two countries.

Indian Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel and US Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta signed the agreement that is expected to eventually see Indian private carriers flying to American cities.
India also becomes the 67th country with which the United States has an open skies pact.

"This is the most liberal air services agreement we have ever signed with any country," Patel said after inking the pact, which replaces the earlier bilateral agreement between the two countries entered into on Feb. 3, 1956.

"We have signed a landmark agreement that opens the skies between India and the United States. America is committed to help India become a major power in the 21st century. Civil aviation is a core component of that goal," Mineta said.

According to him, three US carriers have already announced their plans to start daily flights to India - Delta (between New York and Chennai), Northwest (Minneapolis-Bangalore) and Continental (Newark-New Delhi).

Patel said the previous bilateral pact between India and the United States was negotiated five decades ago and imposed restrictions on issues such as cities that can be serviced, the number of airlines, type of aircraft and the frequency of routes.

(Xinhua News Agency April 15, 2005)

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