Should we allow Air India to fly through Saudi airspace?

Should we allow Air India to fly through Saudi airspace?

Air India’s desire to fly through Saudi Arabia to the West and stop in Israel has been covered widely in the current “enemy” media, accusing Saudi Arabia of allowing the Indians to pass through to the old “enemy,” Israel. The body concerned, the Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), has denied the claim and said that it had not given its consent.

However, let us consider the issue realistically, from the logic of interests and international relations. The truth is that there is no strong motive and no political logic in preventing the world’s civilian aircraft from crossing Saudi airspace, with the exception of three countries — Israel, Qatar and Iran. 

The ban on the flights of these countries should remain in place until the time comes and they are reconciled. It is hostile to exercise sovereign rights, including preventing a country from using airspace due to potential security problems stemming from allowing its aircraft to fly over the territory of the state.

Our relations with the countries of the rest of the world are good, and we are supposed to allow their civilian aircraft to pass through Saudi airspace, regardless of their destination. 

So if the Indian flights were going to Athens or New York or other destinations and wanted to stop at an Israeli airport, why punish them with a ban? 

It has to be noted that Israel benefits from transporting passengers under the ban and the absence of other international airlines that do not want to cross the additional distance, estimated at about two hours, if traveling on a tortuous route between India and Israel.

In all cases, our dispute with Israel is very clear. A country like Qatar, which has almost full relations with Israel, is not in a position to dictate to us, through its propaganda agencies, how to manage our own airspace or waters.

Our relations with the countries of the rest of the world are good, and we are supposed to allow their civilian aircraft to pass through Saudi airspace, regardless of their destination. 

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed


The Arab states debated the concept of the boycott and the Arab institutions concerned agreed to differentiate between the boycott that harms Israel and the boycott that harms the Arabs, and agreed on many amendments. 

The logic of the old boycott was not all about besieging Israel. The parties that wrote it were from the Arab left, and part of their tendency was to prevent trade with the West in general. They banned us from importing most electronics, such as Apple products, and in the past they prevented any dealing with major companies such as Xerox. 

The lists of boycotted products were prepared by the Damascus provincial office, which controlled the trade of the Gulf states, and these states had to follow the rules laid out by countries that did not import such products either because of their hostility to the West or the West’s prohibition on dealing with them in the first place, such as Syria. 

Corruption was rampant in those procedures, leaving negotiations in the past for governments and institutions that often abused their powers to serve the whims of their governments or even personal financial interests. Later on, a major campaign succeeded in correcting the concepts of boycotting and blacklisting.

When we consider the desire of Air India, we have to think about it and about the whole issue. The Israeli airline benefits from the situation and the ban, although its aircraft fly an additional 2,000 kilometers as most companies refrain from doing so. 

The other point is that international airlines transfer most of their activities to destinations like Turkey and others. Besides, any political action that serves the Palestinians and the Palestinian cause, in general, loses its tools when it has no bargaining power in every crisis. 

Even in disputes, wars and hostilities, there is always a logic that manages relations and sanctions — so why do we not study each situation according to its circumstances instead of allowing dogmatic people and wheeler-dealers to manipulate us?

 Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is a veteran columnist. He is the former general manager of Al Arabiya news channel, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat.
Twitter: @aalrashed.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view