May 25, 2022

UAE pushes for resumption of normal air services with India; Quadrant foreign ministers likely to meet

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been pushing for the resumption of pre-Covid flight services and a return to the “Air Services” agreement from the current “Air Bubble” agreement, which results in increased fare prices and unavailability of seats because flights are not operating at full capacity.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, the UAE’s envoy to India, Ambassador Ahmed Albanna said, “We understand India’s situation and limitations. But India plans to open up. I hope to see the number of air services doubled and capacity increased under our normal air service agreement. The Covid-19 situation and the various protocols that apply sometimes become a barrier.

He added: “Eventually, once India has health, Covid-19 protocols under control, then I think it will be beneficial for India to break free from the ‘Air Bubble’ deal and return to the “Air Services” agreement and return to old flights and all Indian international airports.

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Due to the ongoing Expo 2020 Dubai, the UAE has asked the Indian authorities to facilitate travel so that more people can travel to Dubai without paying high ticket prices or waiting endlessly.

“We are working with the Indian authorities to see if travel can be facilitated further,” he said, but there has been no response from the Indian side to the request yet.

The UAE, accompanied by around 80 envoys, met with India’s Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia a few weeks ago to discuss the current status of permitted flights to and from the country. Most countries want India to open its flight services.

When asked about the Air Services Agreement, the UAE Ambassador explained, “The Air Services Agreement has been suspended due to the Covid-19 situation and we have entered into an Air Bubble Agreement. which was concluded with about 37 to 38 countries. There is article 24 of the Air Services Agreement which states that if the carriers reach 80%, it means that they have reached 100%. Indian carriers have reached 100%”.

“There were 1,068 flights per week between the UAE and India before the pandemic. Of these, more than 500 were Indian carriers and more than 400 were UAE carriers. Both carriers operated out of almost 100%. The clause says very clearly that when we reach 100%, we have to renegotiate. There were two rounds of negotiations, one in Mumbai in 2017 and one in Delhi just before the pandemic in 2019,” said Ahmed Albanna said.

“We failed to make a final decision on the final capacity increase by sectoral agreements – Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ras al Khaimah,” he added.

Foreign ministers of 4 countries will discuss “sectors”

Albanna said the four countries’ foreign ministers will soon announce the “track” and “sectors” the group will focus on.

To a question on which many call it a NATO parallel track, the UAE envoy said: “The quadrant is an economic arrangement between the four countries. I read some articles that talked about a second NATO. It does not make sense. It is an economic bloc that focuses on trade collaboration between the four nations. We have a solid trilateral agreement between India, the United Arab Emirates and Israel. The United States is a strong partner and is part of this quadrant.

He added: “There will be a meeting of foreign ministers. We are preparing a team that will take care of all work under the Quadrant arrangement. Once this is done, the ministers will meet to discuss the sectors which have generally been identified in terms of structure and which are the strengths of the four countries. Ministers themselves will announce the new track, the sectors they will focus on.

Asked about India’s concerns over escalating crude oil prices, he said the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and OPEC-plus countries were responsible for containing the rise in prices .

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