In a historic diplomatic breakthrough, Saudi Arabia has granted the permission of using its airspaces to Air India for its direct flights from New Delhi to Tel Aviv in Israel. The Arab permission will not only shorten the travel time and cost from India to Israel, but it is seen as a significant indicator of thaw in ages old diplomatic rift between Arabs and Israel.

For the first time in history, Saudi Arabia has granted permission to any airline for using its airspaces for flights heading towards Israel. Saudi Arabia does not recognise Israel and had a 70-year-old airspace ban which disallowed any aircraft travelling to Israel to pass through its airspaces. However, recently an Indian state-owned carrier Air India had requested Saudi Arabia to allow access to its airspace for its direct flight from New Delhi to Tel Aviv, so that the flight distance can be reduced. In a major diplomatic breakthrough, Saudi Arabia has granted the permission to Air India to access its airspace for flights from India to Israel to pass through – partially lifting the 70-year-old airspace ban. This development is seen as a possible thaw in diplomatic rift between Saudi Arabia and Israel.

The rule will be implemented from March this year, which means, the flights directly from New Delhi in India to the capital of Israel, Tel Aviv will be shortened by two and a half hours. Also, a direct access of Saudi Arabia’s airspace will mean that the flights won’t require to make a stop-over in Amman airport. The new route will not only cut the flight time, but it will also reduce fuel costs and sell cheaper tickets to passengers. The flight from New Delhi to Tel Aviv well now take just 6 hours, instead of 8 hours; however, it is still not the shortest route – which would fly through Iran, Iraq and Pakistan, all together.

The decision is also seen as a sign of India’s nimble diplomatic influence in the region – with both Gulf nations as well as Israel; the two classic rivals. India, somehow, has managed to build friendly ties with Israel on one hand while maintaining existing bilateral relations with Gulf Arab nations with the other hand. And it seems to be working just fine, as of now. The thaw and warmer approach has been credited to the shakeup of Saudi domestic and foreign policy that has been spearheaded by new Arabian Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman. Hence, the political changes in Saudi internally, is seen as the core reason of why relations with Israel might open up.

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