India has assured the diaspora here that it will push for direct flights between the UK and Gujarat.
“We had prepared a strong proposal for Air India to start direct flights between London and Ahmedabad but due to financial and logistics reasons it couldn’t go forward,” T K Manoj Kumar, Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) joint secretary, Diaspora Services Division, said.
“I will reiterate this point strongly when I go back this time and push for it again,” he said while addressing the long-standing demand of British Gujaratis at the Regional Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (RPBD) which concluded here yesterday.
A number of representative groups for the Gujarati population in Britain expressed their joy at the assurance.
“We had launched a major campaign in 1999 following which direct flights were launched in 2003. From just one flight a week, in view of the major passenger flow that was increased to five flights but the UPA government just suddenly stopped them,” said C B Patel, publisher and president of India League.
Patel had submitted a 20,000-strong petition on the issue a few years ago and has now taken up the matter directly with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“The request is with Prime Minister Modi and the chief minister of Gujarat and we are very optimistic after Mr Manoj Kumar’s assurance. Given the financial crisis faced by Air India, maybe this is just the right kind of business opportunity. The demand is very high,” he added.
The National Congress for Overseas Gujaratis in the UK has also been campaigning for direct flights to Ahmedabad, which emerged a major issue at the Diaspora event.
“We have had a series of useful meetings and come up with some practical steps to take the India-UK relationship forward,” said Ranjan Mathai, Indian High Commissioner to the UK, in his concluding remarks.
“The UK’s 1.5 million Diaspora is ready, willing and able to play a part in India’s growth story so that Britain and Bharat can prosper together,” added Shailesh Vara, UK minister for courts and legal aid.