New Delhi [India] : International flight operations are expected to return to normal “by the end of the year”, Rajiv Bansal, the Aviation Ministry Secretary, was quoted by news agency PTI on Wednesday. All international flights (except those on repatriation missions and carrying essential goods, like medicines and food) were grounded in March last year, as the country went into a Covid lockdown. Restrictions were eased once the number of cases dropped and as vaccination coverage increased, with ‘air bubble’ arrangements negotiated with other countries. India currently has 25 such deals. Under an air bubble arrangement, international passenger flights can be operated by member countries’ respective carriers into each other’s territories, subject to certain conditions. He said that while the government was keen for things to return to normal, it would take measures to guard against a renewed wave of coronavirus infections, particularly since several major European nations have recorded frightening surge in daily new cases. “I am all for regaining our space in the civil aviation arena in the world and making a hub in India and for more wide body aircraft. We will get there but bear with me and trust me… I am on your side. We will work together but in a safe environment,” he said at a public event.