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India-Maldives bilateral relations: ‘Air bubble agreements’

An ‘air bubble’ travel arrangement deal has been forged between India and Maldives, the first such arrangement in the whole of South Asia. On August 13th, India’s External Affairs minister, S. Jaishankar announced this through a virtual meeting with Maldives’ Foreign minister Abdulla Shahid. 
 
An air bubble would enable a limited number of flights to operate from select Indian airports to the Maldives even before Indian airports open to regular international flights. Maldives, whose economy is run almost entirely on the back of tourism, made a special request to New Delhi in June. An air bubble between countries allows citizens to travel freely between specified nations without having the need to undergo on-arrival quarantine. Apart from tourists, this will help Indian citizens who are employed in the hospitality, health, and education sectors in the Maldives to return to the island nation and resume work. India currently has allowed travel to the US, the UK, Germany, France and Kuwait. 
 
This is also being looked at as a significant step in the relations between the two countries. According to officials, the air bubble, is a “special gesture” to a country with which India has had traditionally warm ties, but where in recent years, it has had to contend with growing Chinese influence. Establishing the air corridor will send out a strong signal of solidarity with the Solih government and the Maldives. 
Maldives on the other hand has announced that the tourists can travel straight from the airport to their respective resorts, without entering Male. Visas have been made free, on arrival. The move is hoped to boost the economies of both the countries. 



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