Riyadh, February 7: In a major breakthrough, Saudi Arabia on Wednesday gave the green signal for Air India to fly over its airspace when flying to and from Tel Aviv. The move comes a days after Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj reached Saudi Arabia for a three-day visit to inaugurate the prestigious National Festival popularly known as Janadriyah festival in Kingdom.
Notably, Air India is all set to begin a thrice-weekly New Delhi-Tel Aviv route from March this year and Kingdom’s approval will considerably shorten the length of the route. However, El Al currently has two weekly flights to and from Mumbai, but that flight takes around eight hours because it cannot fly over Saudi Arabia but Kingdom’s approval will reduce the time.
The flight to New Delhi, which is a longer route then to Mumbai, will take only six hours. Importantly, Saudi Arabia has never airlines to overfly its sky on the way to Israel. This is the first time that Saudi Arabia has taken historic step by allowing India and Israel to use its airspace in a bid to increase trilateral cooperation.
This step of Saudi Arabia will give a massive boost to the tourism sector of Indian and Israel both. At least 58,000 Indian tourists visited Israel in 2017, a 47% increase from 2015. While 60,000 Israelis visited India in last year which represented a 20% increase from 2015.
Saudi Arabia has invited India as the Guest of Honour country for the Janadriyah festival for which External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is on a three-day state visit. Minister Sushma Swaraj will inaugurate the prestigious National Festival of Saudi Arabia known as Janadriyah festival on Wednesday.
The India Pavilion will comprise glimpses of Traditional and Modern India. There will be displays and presentations by Ministries/Departments such as Indian Ordnance Factories Board, ISRO, Ministry of AYUSH, India Tourism Board, Ministry of Shipping, Ministry of Textiles, Handicrafts Promotion Council, Ministry of Food Processing Industries, Skill development, Digital India, Make in India etc.
On the traditional side, India Pavilion will have presentations representing our socio-cultural heritage, folklore, traditional costumes, Indian perfumes, bridal costumes, artifacts, display of specimen of calligraphy, Arabic manuscripts etc.
The Indian Council of Cultural Relations, ICCR, has sent 9 different cultural troupes for the cultural performances which include Kathakali, Kalariyaptu, Kathak, Manipuri, Chhau, Bangra, Bollywood, Gujarati and Rajasthani. There will be cultural performances by the Indian school children and the Indian community as well. Yoga performances have also been arranged every day. For all the Bollywood lovers, there will also be a screening of Indian movies during the festival.
Many Indian companies are also putting up their stalls in the Indian Pavilion including L & T, Tata Motors, Lulu Group, TCIL, Al Abeer Medical Group, ITL Group, Jet Airways, Shapoorji Pallonji, Virat, Aster Med city, KRBL Rice, Toshi Electronic etc.
Saudi Arabia is home to more than three million Indian people and ties between the two countries are on an upswing in the last few years. Saudi Arabia is India’s fourth largest trade partner after China, the United States and the United Arab Emirates.