India, Nepal to restart air travel with air bubble plan

Commercial flights were disrupted due to the pandemic.

December 10, 2020 02:20 pm | Updated December 11, 2020 09:45 am IST - NEW DELHI

File photo for representation.

File photo for representation.

India and Nepal have decided to launch an air bubble arrangement for restarting commercial flights, after months of disruption caused by the pandemic.

India had proposed the arrangement, which was cleared after the recent visit of Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla to Kathmandu, an informed source said on Thursday.

“Initially we are starting with one flight daily from each side between Delhi and Kathmandu. From the Indian side, it will be Air India which, in normal times, had a daily flight between Delhi and Kathmandu. We are starting with Indians, Nepalese, OCI/PIO cardholders of all nationalities and all valid Indian visa holders”, said the source, adding that tourist visas would not be considered in the starting phase.

Usual medical protocols

The air bubble arrangement, the source said, would follow the usual medical protocols as mandatory in other cases and include the need for RT PCR test report 72-hours prior to travelling.

Thursday's information came in the backdrop of the 8th meeting of Joint Working Group on Nepal-India Cooperation in Power Sector, which took place in virtual mode and led by Joint Secretaries of energy ministries of both sides. The discussion on power transmission is expected to continue on Friday.

A Nepalese source said that Nepal reverted with “readiness to the Indian proposal for the air bubble system and cleared it in the first week of this month”.

Nepal had suspended the entry of all foreigners, including its nationals from abroad from midnight of March 20. Subsequently, it started limited flight services with a few countries. That apart, various countries have operated flights to evacuate nationals from Nepal during the lockdown phases.

Mr. Shringla visited Kathmandu during November 26-27, restarting Foreign Secretary-level talks with Nepal that was stuck because of tension over Nepal’s assertion over the Kalapani region.

The visit is likely to be followed by Foreign Minister-level talks. Diplomatic sources have not yet confirmed the date for this meeting though it was initially expected to take place in December.

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