New Delhi: The civil aviation ministry is working towards setting up bilateral agreements for two-way flights with neighbourhood countries, minister Hardeep Singh Puri has said in a television interview, as the fifth phase of Vande Bharat Mission kicked in on August 1. Also Read - Kozhikode Plane Crash: Clear to Land, Air Traffic Control Said to Pilot. What Happened After That?

“Had a discussion with the external affairs minister in this regard. We have requested some countries. But on our own, we would like to have bilateral civil aviation flights with some of our neighbouring countries,” the minister said. Also Read - Kozhikode Plane Crash: Probe Report Will be Made Public, Don't Speculate, Says Hardeep Singh Puri | What we Know so Far

On being asked the names of the countries in the neighbourhood, the minister said, “I am not announcing it yet, but most of the countries in our neighbourhood.” Also Read - Vande Bharat Mission Will Continue, Repatriation Flights Have no Problem: Ministry of Civil Aviation After Kozhikode Crash

“Our planning for such bilateral flights depend on the capacity and the willingness of the receiving states. Most often, the states tell us you can bring flights but we can take only these many flights. This is not only about Indian states. Australia, for instance, wants limited aviation functions. West Bengal is again under lockdown. So we respect the decision of the states and are navigating our operations through all this,” the minister said.

India has already set up air bubbles with the US, the UK, France, Germany. “Some countries in Central Asia have shown interests. Switzerland is also interested. We are planning to have air bubbles with some African countries so that we can aggregate passengers. And there are neighbouring countries that are willing. We may set up an air bubble with Japan,” the minister said, offering a glimpse of the future of the international flights.

“The situation is dynamic and evolving and is giving results. On social media, the troll army often asks me why you are not resuming operations to this place or that place. I want to say if I could make the decision, I would have opened all flights,” Puri said.