JUNE 10, 2019
Pakistan on Monday decided in principle to let Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s aircraft fly over its airspace to Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan where he has to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit on June 13-14, where his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan would also be present.
Pakistan had fully closed its airspace on February 26 after an Indian Air Force (IAF) strike on a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror camp in Balakot. Since then, it has only opened two routes, both of them pass through southern Pakistan, of the total 11.
India requested Pakistan to let Prime Minister Modi’s aircraft fly over its airspace to Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan.
The official confirmed to PTI that the Imran Khan government has approved in principle the Indian government’s request to let Prime Minister Modi’s aircraft fly over the Pakistani airspace to Bishkek.
“The Indian government will be conveyed about the decision once the procedural formalities are completed. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will also be directed to notify the airmen subsequently,” the official said, adding Pakistan was hopeful that India would respond to its offer for peace dialogue.
He said Prime Minister Khan has recently written a letter to his Indian counterpart stressing Pakistan requires a solution for all geopolitical issues including Kashmir between the two neighboring states.
The official further said Pakistan is still optimistic that India will respond to peace offer despite the fact both premiers were not meeting at the sidelines of the SCO Summit.
External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar in New Delhi said no bilateral meeting has been arranged between Prime Minister Modi and his Pakistani counterpart on the sidelines of the SCO Summit.
Pakistan had given special permission to India’s then external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj to fly directly through Pakistani airspace to attend the SCO Foreign Ministers’ meet in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on May 21.
Apart from the two routes through southern Pakistan, the neighboring country’s airspace remains closed for commercial airliners.
The IAF announced on May 31 that all temporary restrictions imposed on Indian airspace post the Balakot airstrike have been removed. However, it is unlikely to benefit any commercial airliners unless Pakistan reciprocates and opens its complete airspace.
Among Indian airlines, the international operations of Air India and IndiGo have been affected by the closure of Pakistani airspace.
IndiGo, India’s largest airline by share in domestic passenger market, has been unable to start direct flights from Delhi to Istanbul due to the closure of Pakistani airspace.
The low-cost carrier started the Delhi-Istanbul flight in March this year. It has to take the longer route every time over the Arabian Sea and make a stop either at Doha in Qatar or at Ahmedabad in Gujarat for refueling.
Similarly, full-service carrier Air India is unable to fly non-stop flights from Delhi to the US since the closure of Pakistani airspace.
Pakistan, however, has extended its partial airspace ban on eastern border with India until 14 June.