Iraq wants direct flights to India
Exactly two decades after Indian carriers stopped flights to Iraq following the Gulf war in 1990-91, the country wants resumption of direct flights with India. Officials from Iraq’s embassy recently approached the foreign affairs and aviation ministries and impressed upon them the need for direct connectivity as there is a huge flow of visitors between the two nations looking for education, healthcare and even religious tourism.
Currently, almost the entire traffic between Iraq and India is routed via Gulf on their carriers. The aviation ministry will now see the existing bilateral agreements to see if there are adequate flying rights or fresh ones need to be signed. Already, Naresh Goyal’s Jet Airways is learnt to be toying with the idea of having charter flights to Najaf in Iraq for religious tourism. Karbala is close to Najaf. Iraq Air and Air India used to have flights between the two countries.
AI had started flights to Baghdad in April 1976 when a Boeing 707 used to fly there once a week via Kuwait. Iraq Air officials also accompanied the Iraqi team that met aviation ministry officials recently. ‘‘Almost 4,000 Iraqi students are studying in India. A large number of patients also come regularly to India. Karbala is one of the most important pilgrim places for Muslims. So there is enormous traffic potential on India-Iraq route, which is currently being tapped by Gulf carriers.