Pakistan opens airspace for Indian flights

Pakistan opens airspace for Indian flights


New Delhi :     Pakistan has decided to open its airspace for ‘all type of civilian traffic’ with immediate effect making a sort of climbdown from its July 12 stance that it would not do so until India withdraws all its fighter planes from the Indo-Pak border.

Pakistan’s aviation authority on Tuesday lifted its ban on all civilian flights following months of restrictions which were imposed after its standoff with India in February this year after Pulwama attack and subsequent aerial strikes by air forces of the two countries, according to reports.

The central government declined to comment on the development so far formally.

However, a source said – “It is entirely in their court. The decision to close the airspace was taken by Pakistan government, so it is up to them to take follow up actions or otherwise. We have no comment to offer”.

Last Friday, the government source here asserted that : “….there cannot be any negotiation on some sovereign decisions from the Indian side about force movement along the border”.

On July 12, Pakistan Aviation Secretary Shahrukh Nusrat, who is also the director general of the Pakistani Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) has said: “The Indian government approached asking us to open the airspace. We conveyed our concerns that first India must withdraw its fighter planes placed forward”.

Pakistan closed its airspace for India on February 26 after the Indian Air Force conducted a strike in Balakot following the Pulwama attack.

Last month, Pakistan had given a special permission to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s VVIP flight to fly directly through Pakistani airspace to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan.

However, Prime Minister Modi’s VVIP aircraft avoided flying over Pakistan.

Earlier, Pakistan had allowed India’s former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to use its airspace for his official trip to participate in the meeting of SCO foreign ministers in Bishkek on May 21.

Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Puri told Parliament last week here that due to the closure of Pakistani airspace, Air India had to cough up approximately Rs 430 crores extra expenditures. “…..the closure of Pakistani airspace has resulted in Air India cumulatively taking a loss of something like Rs 430 crore,” Mr Puri said in Lok Sabha.

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