Taliban asks India to resume international flights to Afghanistan
The Taliban has reportedly written to India's Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), seeking the resumption of commercial flights between India and Afghanistan. DGCA chief Arun Kumar told The Indian Express that the Civil Aviation Ministry will take the final call as it is a policy issue. India had stopped all commercial flights to Kabul after the group's hostile takeover of Afghanistan in August.
In the letter dated September 7, the Taliban-led government's acting Civil Aviation Minister Alhaj Hameedullah Akhunzada requested the DGCA to permit commercial India-Afghanistan flights of Ariana Afghan airline and Kam Air. "The intention of this letter is to keep the smooth passenger movement between two countries based on signed MoU," Akhunzada wrote. "The Civil Aviation of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan avails its highest assurance."
Last week, the Taliban had also appealed to airlines from other countries to resume operations. Promising its complete cooperation, the group maintained that all problems at the airport had been resolved. Taliban spokesperson Abdul Qahar Balkhi told Reuters that the suspension of international flights had left Afghans stranded abroad and prevented people from traveling for work or study.
Since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan on August 15, a limited number of passenger flights have been operating in Afghanistan. The first international commercial flight after the takeover was operated between Islamabad and Kabul on September 13 by Pakistan International Airlines. Regular international flights out of Kabul are being operated to Pakistan and Iran. Meanwhile, Ariana Afghan Airlines has been operating domestic flights.
Since taking charge, the Taliban government has managed to resume operations at several airports in the country with the help of Qatar. The resumption of international travel is important for the Taliban regime as it is stepping up efforts to gain international recognition. Moreover, the resumption of flight operations is also crucial to recover the country's economy from rapid collapse.
Before the Taliban's hostile takeover, India's national carrier Air India and low-cost airline SpiceJet operated flights between Delhi and Kabul. Air India operated its last scheduled flight to Kabul on August 15 until Afghanistan's airspace was declared "uncontrolled." On the other hand, SpiceJet halted its operations last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The passengers were mainly medical tourists, students, and traders.
India is likely to tread slowly on the subject of resuming commercial flights with Afghanistan. The government is concerned about the implications of recent changes in Afghanistan and has demanded that the Afghan territory should not be used as a base for terror acts.