Ratan Tata meets aviation minister Singh over flight plans

It is becoming likelier by the day that the new low-cost airline proposed by the Tata Group and Malaysia's AirAsia Bhd will take off fairly soon, as hectic parleys are on at the highest levels to get the joint venture into the Indian skies.

Teams from the Tatas, AirAsia, and Telstra Tradeplace Pvt Ltd (which would own 21 per cent of the airline) met civil aviation minister Ajit Singh on Friday.

Business doyen Ratan Tata, the chairman emeritus of Tata Sons, and Telstra Tradeplace Pvt Ltd owner Arun Bhatia along with a member of his family also met the minister separately.

Tata's visit to Singh was officially described as a ''courtesy call'', but there was obviously more to it than that.

It is reported that in between the parleys, Ajit Singh rushed to the residence of Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

One commentator said it bodes ill for the government's vaunted economic liberalisation programme if every large investment proposal needs political clearance.