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NEW DELHI: In a fillip to people ties that will allow the resumption of travel for business, medical reasons and meeting family members, the Indian government has decided to start an “air bubble" with Nepal.

The Indian foreign ministry, it is learnt, has agreed to a proposal from Nepal to restart flight operations between the two countries in a phased manner to ensure people of the two countries are not inconvenienced due to covid-19 related embargos.

This is seen as one of the outcomes of Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla’s visit to Nepal last month to reset ties after a bitter row over a Nepalese map that had shown Indian territories lying within Nepal’s boundaries.

Under the plan to operate the “air bubble," there will be two flights a day between Kathmandu and New Delhi initially, one each by Nepal Airlines and Air India. Flights coming into India can bring in Indian and Nepalese nationals, overseas citizen of India (OCI) cardholders and Person of Indian Origin cardholders holding passports of any country. Third country nationals including diplomats intending to travel to India for any purpose and their dependents will also be allowed under certain conditions.

Flights from India can ferry Indian and Nepalese nationals to Kathmandu.

“It would be for the airlines concerned to ensure that there is no travel restriction for Indian nationals to enter Nepal before issue of ticket/ boarding pass to the Indian passenger," says one of the provisions. Third country nationals including diplomats who have a valid permit to enter Nepal can also travel by the flights out of India.

All flights operated under the “air bubble" will adhere to the strict norms issued for the covid-19 pandemic.

Travellers to Nepal will have to fill up a form and carry a negative covid-19 test that is issued not more than 72 hours prior to landing in Kathmandu, says another of the provisions.

It is learnt that the air transport bubble will be effective immediately and will remain valid till resumption of scheduled services between the two countries. Tickets for the flights can be sold through the airlines' websites or through sales agents.

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