India and China are the world’s most populous nations, and they share a border. Tensions between the two global giants have remained high for many years, with the most recent border fracas killing at least 20 Indian soldiers and at least four on the Chinese side. 

The 2020 skirmish along a Himalayan mountain ridge, combined with the global pandemic, gave India an opportunity to stop all passenger flights between the two countries. Although the world has largely returned to pre-pandemic flying habits, and there has not been a deadly border flare-up since, India is still resisting calls from Beijing to reopen the routes. 

Airlines in both countries are holding talks with their respective governments, according to the CEO of India’s largest airline IndiGo. Pieter Elbers spoke to Reuters and told the news agency the airline would “assess the market” if flights become possible. 

The potential for direct China-India flights is significant. The previous peak was 539 scheduled flights between the countries, with the majority by Chinese airlines. 

Reuters reported that Beijing has requested the Indian civil aviation authority re-open the routes “several times” since China lifted all pandemic measures in 2023. 

A Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement confirmed the government’s eagerness to restart passenger flights. 

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“We hope the Indian side will work with China in the same direction for the early resumption of direct flights,” it said. 

But sources told the news agency the mood in New Delhi was still focused on the border issue. 

“Unless there is peace and tranquillity on the border, the rest of the relationship cannot move forward,” they said.