For decades, the number of flights has been restricted, mainly to protect the country's state-run airlines.

Airlines from the Association of Southeast Asian nations will be allowed to fly daily to New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai and 18 other tourist destinations in India, the civil aviation ministry official said on condition of anonymity. 

A formal announcement by the Cabinet is expected on Thursday,he said. 

Flights to Pakistan

The Cabinet also decided to allow private Indian airlines to operate flights to Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives, the official said.

Sri Lanka's state-run carrier will be allowed to use India as an operating base to fly to any of those countries, he said.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee told an ASEAN summit earlier this year that New Delhi would lift flight restrictions in an effort to strengthen business ties with the region.

ASEAN members are Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Myanmar, Malaysia and Thailand.