India, Iraq to resume direct flights
India and Iraq would resume direct flights which were stopped during the first Gulf War two decades ago, official sources said on Thursday.
The aviation authorities of the two countries, which were in talks for over the past few months, have decided to launch these flights from the coming Sunday, the sources said.
Iraq government has designated its national carrier Iraqi Airways, which would every week operate two flights each to Delhi and Mumbai from Baghdad. India is yet to take a final decision on designating any carrier that would fly to Iraq, they said.
The sources said India was keen to have direct flights to the religious city of Karbala and not just to Baghdad.
A bilateral air services agreement was first signed between the two countries in 1955. On April 6, 1976, Air India first launched a weekly Boeing 707 service to Baghdad via Dhahran and Kuwait.
The agreement allowed two flights on each direction by designated airlines of the two countries every week, with a maximum seat capacity of 800 passengers both sides.
The sources said the resumption of flight services would strengthen people-to-people contacts between the two countries, which were affected during the past few years.
A large number of families of Indian origin are settled in Iraq, mainly in the holy cities of Basra, Najaf and Karbala and thousands of Indians go every year to visit the Islamic pilgrimage shrines of Imam Hussein and Imam Abbas. Iraq is also the third largest supplier of crude to India.