Japan and India are on the verge of signing a pact that would give passenger planes easy access to each other’s airports in the hopes of increasing the number of tourist arrivals in Japan from the subcontinent.
The agreement would be formalized during the meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India as a part of the Japanese PM’s three-day visit.
Abe had long been in favor of a so-called open-skies agreement ever since his first stint as Prime Minister in the last decade. Within those arrangements, it is the airlines – not the government – that gets to decide the number of routes and flights between participating countries, although the number of landing slots assigned at airports does place a limit.
Japan has arranged open-skies agreements with 32 nations and territories as of the moment. Abe and Modi will agree to open up six airports each in Japan and India initially, with more to come in the near future.
Sparking this deregulatory push is Japan’s way of attracting 40 million inbound tourists in 2020, the year of the Tokyo Summer Olympics. Japan sees India’s 1.3 billion people as a prime market, which has not been maximized as of the moment.
Only about 120,000 Indian nationals travelled to Japan last year. Creating an environment that makes Japan a more appealing holiday destination has been seen as a significant factor in amending the situation. Bringing in more budget carriers goes a long way toward addressing the issue.
Japanese and Indian leaders have had reciprocal state visits every other year. This week’s trip will mark Abe’s third visit to India since his second stint as prime minister started in late 2012. Abe has met with Modi 10 times in all sorts of settings, which underscores the weight given to the bilateral relationship.