New Delhi: Owing to restrictions in the cross-border movement of people due to the coronavirus pandemic, India is now planning to start air transport bubbles with Bangladesh, ThePrint has learnt.
Air travel bubbles are temporary arrangements between two countries aimed at restarting commercial passenger services when regular international flights are suspended, in this case due to Covid-19.
The matter was discussed during a recent meeting between Foreign Secretary Harsh V. Shringla and Muhammad Imran, High Commissioner of Bangladesh to India, earlier this week.
According to diplomatic sources, while Bangladesh has removed all restrictions on its sides of the border areas, through which the movement of people takes place, India continues to remain shut as it battles the rising number of coronavirus cases.
Bangladesh has urged India to allow the entry of those who want to visit India on medical grounds. Some of them, the sources said, have valid visas issued by the Indian High Commission in Dhaka but cannot travel owing to the shutting down of borders.
“India has offered travel bubbles to all the neighbours… There is a process and it is being followed before these can be operationalised,” a top official said.
India’s travel bubbles
The travel bubbles are reciprocal in nature wherein airlines from both countries enjoy similar benefits.
India has created transport bubbles with the US, France and Germany. In addition to Indian carriers, some from these countries are now permitted to operate to and fro services.
Within the neighbourhood, the first country with which India has started such air bubbles is Maldives for the purposes of employment, tourism and medical emergencies among others.
India and Bangladesh
India will also soon be sending its new High Commissioner Vikram K. Doraiswami to Dhaka. He will be replacing Riva Ganguly Das, who is returning to India as Secretary (East).
Last month, India also gifted 10 diesel locomotives to Dhaka in line with a commitment that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made to his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina during her visit to New Delhi in October 2019.
Bangladesh was in urgent need of these locomotives as 72 per cent of its rail engines are in a worn-out condition. Thus, the Bangladesh government sought these locomotives from India on an urgent basis.