Neighbourhood First: India-Nepal open flights under `Bubble Arrangement’

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Updated: Dec 10, 2020 3:50 PM

Flights have opened between India and Nepal which will be under a bilateral air bubble arrangement.

The focus of the visit was on the reviewing of bilateral relations between the two neighbours and how to explore more options for getting the two closer and for deepening of ties.

Flights have opened between India and Nepal which will be under a bilateral air bubble arrangement.

Confirming this to Financial Express Online, “The Air Bubble with Nepal is based on the similar concept which India has with some countries presently. And this is the outcome of the recently concluded visit of Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla to the Himalayan nation.

“The concept of Air Bubble was discussed during the Foreign Secretary’s visit to Nepal last month and this highlights the importance of India’s relations with Nepal and people to people connect,” sources added.

Who can travel under this Air Bubble Arrangement?

Under this arrangement, all valid Indian visa holders (except tourist visa) and Nepalese, OCI/PIO cardholders of all nationalities and Indians.

Initially, there will be one flight each between the capital cities of the two countries – Delhi and Kathmandu. And the Air India which, in normal times, had a daily flight between Delhi and Kathmandu, will be taking a flight.

These flights will be following strict medical protocols as is being done with other countries. And this includes RT PCR test report of 72 hours right ahead of travels.

Last month, the Foreign Secretary had visited the Himalayan nation and had met with top leaders of that country including Prime Minister Oli, and had called on the President and the Foreign Minister too. He held talks with his Nepalese counterpart during that visit and had met with delegations of Nepali Congress and Madhesh leaders.

India-Nepal Bilateral Relations

The focus of the visit was on the reviewing of bilateral relations between the two neighbours and how to explore more options for getting the two closer and for deepening of ties.

The talks were also related to the measures that could be taken related to specific key projects that needed to be finalized on a priority basis and this included the Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project. And also the launching of new economic initiatives.

It was during the visit that connectivity to further enhance people to people connect that the commencement of an air travel bubble between India and Nepal was discussed.

Nepal is also on the priority list of nations where India has assured of sending the COVID-19 vaccine once the production starts after clearing all medical parameters. As part of its support to Nepal in its fight against the global pandemic, India has handed over 2000 vials of Remdesivir injections.

During his meetings with the top leadership of that country, boundary matters were raised and the FS talked of ways to take it forward under bilateral mechanisms.

How does the Air Bubble Arrangement Help?

So far India has the air bubble arrangement with more than 20 countries and more are on the anvil.

It will help in moving not only the stranded citizens be repatriated but will also create connectivity for the people who need to travel either for businesses or for medical treatment.

According to the official spokesperson of MEA, Anurag Srivastava, “So far (December 3, 2020), almost 34.10 lakh Indians have been repatriated through different modes of the Vande Bharat Mission (VBM). And these include the flights organized by Air India, private and foreign carriers, naval ships, land border crossings as well the Indian Navy ships.”

Phase VIII of VBM

So far under phase VIII which will end later this month, almost 897 international flights have been scheduled. These flights are operating from around 15 countries and are expected to bring back 1.5 lakh people. Also, under the Air Bubble Arrangement with 18 countries, more flights are being operated which are helping in the repatriation efforts undertaken by the Ministry of External Affairs.

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