New Delhi, July 13:
Emirates Airlines, the national carrier for the United Arab
Emirates, has approached New Delhi with an ambitious plan to more
than double its seats in the India sector over the next five years.
And in return? New Delhi hopes to get back as many dons as it can
The dons-for-seats formula came up at a high-Ievel meeting in the
Ministry of External Affairs along with the Emirates' expansion
plan. As per this plan, the airline proposes to increase its seats
to-and from India, from the current 9,900 a week to 25,500.
Ever since Aftab Ansari - 'the prime accused in the attack on the
American Center in Kolkata - was deported from Dubai, this
dons-for-seats formula has had a strong support in the MEA. Not so
much in the Ministry of Civil Aviation which discussed Emirates'
expansion plan at a meeting on April 22. It has now asked for
feedback from Air-India, Indian Airlines and the Directorate-General
of Civil Aviation (DGCA). For its part, it has told the MEA that
accepting the Emirates offer would be bad news for Air India and
This isn't the first time the formula is being discussed. In fact,
several key bureaucrats and politicians have admitted that such a
trade-off happened twice" earlier. Emirates was given block seats on
the basis of informal discussions rather than a formal bilateral
agreement - 500 seats per week on May 14, 2002 and more recently, on
March 30, 2003, for the Hyderabad and Cochin sectors.
"' Sources say the then Minister Shahnawaz Hussian agreed to this
after he received MEA's written instructions that seats should be
granted to "improve security relations" with the UAE. Says George
Joseph, India's Counsel-General in Dubai: "The criminal-for-seats
phenomenon existed in the beginning when the first guys came back.
Now, pure commercial and trade interests are fuelling the network
expansion due to the sheer size of the Indian market.
Besides, the Emirates does not want these criminals in their land."
About the future expansion plans of Emirates, Joseph said he was
confident the airline "would get it."
So, despite turbulence from the Civil Aviation Ministry, the MEA is
going ahead. It recently asked security agencies to rework their
pendency list of the 60-odd mafia dons into two list of 10 of the
"most wanted" living in Dubai and 10 who use it as a transit point.
In all, 12 criminals have been deported from the UAE since Aftab
Ansari came back in February 2002.
Says a senior MEA official: "As far as the Emirates proposal, no
action has been taken and it did not figure during discussions with
the delegation led by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan which
visited New Delhi two weeks ago."
What Emirates wants ?
An increase in weekly capacity entitlement from 9,000 seats in 2003
to 25,500 seats in 2007.
From five points served in India to nine. Every year, one city among
Bangalore, Thiruvananthapuram, Ahmedabad and Kozhikode to be added.
Fifth freedom traffic rights beyond Hyderabad and Bangalore to
Singapore and Bangkok.
The Dons who have come home
Muthappa Rai (a string of criminal cases in Bangalore), Aftab Ansari
and Rajendra Anadkat (extortions, American Center attack), Ejaz
Pathan, Mustafa Ahmed Umardosa and Iqbal Shaikh Kaskar (Mumbai
Those who have not
Dawood Ibrahim, Memon brothers, Anees Ibrahim, Aftab Bhatki, Chota