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Airspace ban to go if fighters removed: Pakistan

Pakistan has turned down India’s request to lift the restriction, linking the use of its airspace with the removal of fighter planes from Indian forward airbases.

Jul 13, 2019, 11.12 AM IST
After extending its eastern airspace ban on commercial flights to and from India four times in two months, Pakistan has turned down India’s request to lift the restriction, linking the use of its airspace with the removal of fighter planes from Indian forward airbases.

Pakistan aviation secretary Shahrukh Nusrat, who is also director general of the country’s Civil Aviation Authority, told the Senate’s standing committee on aviation on Thursday that New Delhi has been intimated that Pakistani airspace would remain unavailable for India until war jets were removed from its forward airbases.

“The Indian government approached us asking to open the airspace. We conveyed our concerns that first India must withdraw its fighter planes placed forward,” Nusrat was quoted by local media as telling the lawmakers.

Indian airspace hasn’t been opened for our flights: Pakistan
The CAA official also reportedly contested India’s claim that Delhi had opened its airspace for Pakistan. “Pakistani flights from Thailand have not been restored since the closure of Indian airspace. Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flights for Malaysia also remain suspended,” the aviation secretary said.

Islamabad had shut its airspace on February 26 this year following the Indian airstrikes inside Pakistan, allegedly on a Jaish-e-Muhammed terror camp in Balakot, in retaliation to a suicide bombing that killed 44 Indian security personnel in Pulwama, Kashmir, on February 14.

On March 27, Pakistan had opened its airspace for all flights except for those from India. Since May 15, the ban on eastern airspace has been extended four times.

Since the closure of Pakistani airspace, the Indian aviation industry, according to media reports here, is incurring more losses than Pakistan. Several foreign airlines are also being forced to take longer routes to reach other destinations. The closure of Pakistani airspace has affected flights from Europe to Southeast Asia while flights from Europe and the US flying into and out of New Delhi have been the worst hit.

The Delhi-Astana flight now takes three extra hours while the Delhi-Moscow flight takes more than two additional hours. The durations of the Delhi-Kabul and Delhi-Tehran flights have also doubled.

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