CAMBODIA and India are inching closer after the two nations agreed to start direct flights while promoting closer tourism exchanges and cooperation in all areas.
However, these will only start after the Covid-19 saga comes to an end.
The understanding could potentially draw the ire of China, as the move could also be interpreted as India trying to move in on China’s foothold in Cambodia.
Among Asean countries, Cambodia and Laos are seen as China’s strongest allies while India has been increasing its cooperation with Vietnam in recent times.
Both China and India are also trying to gain the upper hand in Myanmar with various economic and military deals in that nation.
The agreement between Cambodia and India was reached during a meeting between Cambodian Minister of Tourism Thong Khon and new Indian ambassador to Cambodia Devyani Uttam Khobragade on Jan 20.
According to the Phnom Penh Post, Khon said the two countries have a long history of cultural and religious ties, with scores of Cambodians enjoying religious tours to holy sites across India prior to the pandemic.
Devyani stressed that a direct air route connecting the two countries was one of her priorities.
“I fully agree and support this initiative because it will bring a lot of benefits to the tourism sector, considering how young Indians nowadays really like these kinds of tourism tours.”
Khmer Angkor Tour Guide Association (KATGA) president Khieu Thy told The Post that direct flights with India would be a boon for Cambodia.
He said visits to ancient Khmer temples remain all the rage among Indians, noting how closely related the religions that inspired their construction were with those of India.
“The number of Indian tourists coming to Angkor Wat has increased every year and this will create more jobs for local people,” Thy said.
Direct flights would make travel between the two countries faster and more affordable as currently it takes at least six hours due to transits in countries such as Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia.
According to Secretariat of State for Civil Aviation spokesman Sin Chansereyvutha, a memorandum of understanding between Cambodia and India that authorises the rights to operate a direct flight was signed back in 2002.
Tourism ministry data showed that 1,286,074 international tourists visited Cambodia in the first 11 months of last year, down 78.2 per cent from 5,898,130 in the corresponding period in 2019.
Indians accounted for 12,869, marking an 80.2 per cent drop from the 65,077 tallied in the same period in 2019.
Source: TREND News Agency