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Indian Flights Over Saudi Arabia: Yes or No?

Al-Araby al-Jadid, London, February 9

Air India, the Indian national carrier, allegedly received a green-light from Riyadh to cross Saudi airspace during flights between New Delhi and Tel Aviv. While Israeli news outlets reported extensively about the agreement, Saudi officials were quick to deny the claim. Let us take a step back and consider the dilemma at hand—should the Saudis prevent Indian commercial planes from flying over its territory? I believe the answer is unequivocally no. Riyadh’s relationship with its allies should have nothing to do with where these nations’ planes fly. Air India can transport passengers to Athens, Berlin, New York or Tel Aviv. This should not be our concern. Why penalize India for exercising its sovereign right to transport its citizens wherever deemed fit? This is not the way to promote the Palestinian cause. In fact, such a boycott on India will only benefit Israel, whose national carrier will continue to enjoy a monopoly over all flights between Israel and India. Providing the green-light to Air India will actually open up the Tel Aviv-New Delhi route to competition and thus undermine Israel’s market share. Finally, and most importantly, this agreement with Air India should not be viewed as an agreement with Israel. Saudi airspace will remain closed to Israeli air traffic and Israeli airliners will have to travel the extra 1,500 miles to reach India. If anything, this deal can act as another political lever to pressure Israel in the future. – Samir Attalah