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    Garuda Airlines to link Chennai with Indonesia

    CHENNAI: Boosting the bilateral trade relations between India and Indonesia, besides wooing the potential tourists from South India, State carrier Garuda Indonesian Airlines is launching direct services from Chennai. This is part of the countrywide operations, likely to be launched in June this year. Announcing this at a press conference here on Sunday, the visiting Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Lt General (R) Andi M Ghalib said, the airlines would kickstart the services from four metropolitan cities in India to the island nation.“We want to raise the number of Indian tourists to Indonesia from the present 1.80 lakh to 2.40 lakh in the coming years. Also, the new air services would give a fillip for bilateral trade,” he said,adding a proposal has been put forth to open a Consulate General of Indonesia in Chennai, next only to Mumbai. Speaking about the bilateral trade, he said, Indonesia is poised to increase the trade to 45 billion dollars by 2015. Pointing out that the thrust areas are coal, wood and palm oil, he said, “Our country is supplying coal for a coal-fired thermal project to generate 1200 MW power at Thoothukudi. Several businessmen from India have invested in coal mines in Indonesia.”He also underlined that his country is interested in signing a sister city agreement with TN. Asked about any proposal for talks with the State Government, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary responded that he was inclined to meet the Governor and Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu in this regard.Andi M Ghalib further stressed that his country invites more investments in other sectors too. “We are taking 50 Indian businessmen for exploring the trade opportunities available in Indonesia next month. In fact, India and Indonesia have signed 33 MoUs, which is the highest between any two countries in the world, offering many tax benefits for investors, he observed.