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UAE keen on reviewing air services agreement with India: Envoy

The ambassador also outlined the role being played by his country in facilitating contacts between the US and the Afghan Taliban. He made it clear the UAE’s decision to provide $3 billion to Pakistan wouldn’t in any way affect the country’s relations with India.

india Updated: Jan 29, 2019 20:38 IST
Rezaul H Laskar
Rezaul H Laskar
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UAE,India,air services agreement
The UAE wants to review its existing air services agreement with India, its envoy has said (File Photo)(AP)

The United Arab Emirates is keen on reviewing its air services agreement with India as occupancy on carriers of both sides has exceeded the figure stipulated in the pact, UAE envoy Ahmed Al Banna said on Tuesday.

The ambassador also outlined the role being played by his country in facilitating contacts between the US and the Afghan Taliban. He made it clear the UAE’s decision to provide $3 billion to Pakistan wouldn’t in any way affect the country’s relations with India.

The India-UAE air routes are among the world’s most lucrative, but moves to increase capacity have been the subject of heated debates as Indian carriers believe the current deal offers greater benefits to airlines from the Gulf.

“The agreement stipulates that if occupancy has reached 85% and above, then it is time to review the agreement. The UAE carriers have reached 100% occupancy, while Indian carriers have reached over 90% occupancy,” Al Banna said, referring to the air services agreement and four separate MoUs covering the airports at Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ras al-Khaimah and Sharjah.

The UAE has taken up the issue with India’s external affairs and civil aviation ministries and with civil aviation minister Suresh Prabhu, he said. He added there was an understanding when external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj visited the UAE in December on a new round of negotiations and “that will happen very soon”.

Al Banna noted 55% of Indians going out of the country travel via the airports of the UAE, mainly Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Though there are more than 1,068 flights a week with over 168,000 seats between Indian and the UAE, the number of Indians travelling to the UAE is “increasing incredibly”, he said.

Taliban talks

Referring to the UAE’s role in facilitating talks with the Taliban, Al Banna said his country has a vision of ensuring peace and stability in the region. “We like to do our utmost to help in the process of eliminating those terrorist groups or reaching with them a solution that will ease (the situation) in the whole region,” he said.

However, he criticised Qatar’s role in the process, saying Doha – which has hosted several rounds of talks between the Taliban and the US – was “hosting terrorists and exporting terrorists”.

Aid to Pakistan

Al Banna said there was an agreement between the UAE and Pakistan for aid worth $3 billion. “It is not a loan, it was just a deposit made in the central bank of Pakistan,” he said.

“Our relationship with India is not determined by our relationship with anybody else and India’s relationship with the UAE is not determined by their relationship with anyone else. We evaluate our relationship according to our dealings with (India) only, it has nothing to do with third parties,” he added.

First Published: Jan 29, 2019 20:38 IST