By SM Najmus Sakib
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA) - Bangladesh has decided to resume flights with neighboring India on a limited scale following a request from New Delhi to examine the conditions for such a move.
Mashfee Binte Shams, secretary (East) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, confirmed to the media late Wednesday following an inter-ministerial meeting in Dhaka that a very limited number of flights would be operated initially.
Shams said around four flights would be operated per week once they get a response from India and the final decision is taken by both sides, noting that “flight numbers will be increased with India gradually after the resumption.”
People with only urgent needs, including medical care, would be able to take advantage of the facility and passengers will have to meet conditions including COVID-19 vaccination, she said, adding the same restrictions as along the border will be imposed and the same categories of people allowed.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) has already responded to its Indian counterpart in a letter with a proposal to resume flights through an air bubble agreement between the two countries, according to officials.
“Transport bubbles” are temporary arrangements between two countries aimed at restarting commercial passenger services when regular international flights are suspended as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation.
Bangladesh previously suspended operations of all international flights to and from 12 countries, including India, amid surging COVID infections.
Earlier, Bangladesh’s Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen told reporters in Dhaka that talks were underway with India to resume flights and they were expected to start in August.
In October last year, 56 weekly flights were launched via air bubbles between the two countries. But the resurgence of COVID-19 forced India to suspend air travel from March 23 this year.
India now wants to resume flights with Bangladesh following a fall in the number of coronavirus cases. The land border with India, however, will remain closed until Aug. 8.
India shares its largest border areas with Bangladesh and over 50% of medical tourists who come to India for treatment are Bangladeshis.
Despite lockdown restrictions in place, thousands of Bangladeshis have travelled and returned through land borders over issues related to health care, business and education.