A meeting of Indian officials with their Gulf counterparts has discussed lifting restrictions on flying from India to the Middle East. Muraleedharan, the Minister of State for External Affairs and Parliamentary Affairs, met with Indian ambassadors in the Gulf on Saturday to discuss the possibility of passenger flights being resumed. WAM, the state news agency of the United Arab Emirates, reported on developments. Approximately 8.5 million Indians live in the Gulf, with about 3.4 million residing in the United Arab Emirates.
The UAE has restricted passengers from India since April, when the third wave of Covid-19 swept across the country and the highly contagious Delta coronavirus variant emerged. The number of cases reported were as high as 300,000 to 400,000 a day at one time. Arindam Bagchi, the representative of the Ministry of External Affairs, said about 40,000 new cases a day now, with millions of people testing daily. ‘Our ambassadors were requested to take up with their host countries the issue of resuming flights with India,’ he said.
Mr. Bagchi expressed his hope that nations would ease travel restrictions from India as a result of the vastly improved COVID-19 situation in India. India’s Minister for External Affairs, Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, discussed this issue during a bilateral meeting with Saudi officials in Italy during the G20 ministerial meeting. As part of his remarks, he noted that Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla raised the issue of normalizing travel and mobility for students and professionals, and of facilitating family reunions.
Mr. Bagchi said, ‘We are doing our best to help Indians who need to travel back to their home countries’. India’s citizens are banned from traveling to the UAE, with a few exceptions, such as golden visa holders and diplomats. UAE officials and airlines said the country’s travel restrictions are due to be reviewed by July 15, with a deadline of that day.
The restriction may also be extended, as it has been at every review since late April. In response to the pandemic, Mr Bagchi said that lifting travel bans and dealing with the pandemic were the top priorities for the Indian government. ‘We have seen some early steps in this direction. The government will continue to prioritize this issue’, he added.