India on Thursday signed an air bubble agreement with the Maldives, making it the sixth country in a growing list of places where Indians can travel to. The Maldives, which reopened recently for tourism, was shut for four-month-long months due to the Covid-19 crisis.  The first flight to Male will leave from here on August 18.

An air bubble between countries permits residents to travel freely between two countries without having the need to undergo on-arrival quarantine. India presently has permitted travel to the US, the UK, Germany, France, and Kuwait, and is in chats with Canada for comparative travel arrangements. Amidst Covid-19 pandemic, international air travel has been hit hard and counties like India have been focusing on the creation of air bubbles for safer travel and before normal air travel resumes.

The declaration was made after the video conference between External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar and Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid.

During the virtual meet, Maldives FM said thanks to the Indian government for “counting the Maldives among the principal countries with which India has built up an air bubble” and accentuated the “significance of facilitating travel, particularly for Maldivians trying to visit India for urgently required medical treatment, just as Indian tourists wish to visit the Maldives”.

Additionally, India renewed its commitment to provide 11 essential commodities to the Maldives to strengthen food security on the island.

The ministry also announced that a Cargo Ferry service between India and the Maldives will commence at an early date. In addition to connecting Male, the ferry service carries the potential to link Kulhudhuhfushi port to India and improve economy of northern Maldives. The initiative, which is expected to boost tourism, was announced during Modi’s two-day state visit to the Indian Ocean archipelago in 2019.

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