Pak set to open ‘air space’ for civilian flights, 4 months after Balakot attack

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(Online Desk)

In a relief to Indian airlines, especially Air India, Pakistan to open its airspace for all civilian traffic from 12.41 am on Tuesday, said sources.

“Indian airlines will start operating flights on normal routes over Pakistan airspace soon,” said sources.

Earlier on July 12, Pakistan informed India about not opening its airspace for commercial flights until New Delhi removes its fighter jets from the forward IAF airbases.

Pakistan fully closed its airspace on February 26 after the Indian Air Force (IAF) fighter jets struck a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist training camp in Balakot following the Pulwama terror attack in Kashmir.

Islamabad on Friday for the fifth time extended the airspace ban along its eastern border with India till July 26.

“The Indian government approached asking us to open the airspace. We conveyed our concerns that first India must withdraw its fighter planes placed forward,” said Pakistan’s Aviation Secretary Shah­rukh Nusrat, as per Dawn News reports.

Nusrat further apprised the Pakistan Senate Standing Committee on Aviation that Indian officials have contacted Pakistan requesting it to lift the airspace restrictions.

“However, Indian officials have been told that Indian airbases are still laden with fighter jets and Pakistan will not allow the resumption of flight operations from India until their removal,” said Nusrat.

After the restrictions, all the passenger flights are being diverted to alternative routes by India, The Express Tribune reported.

The CAA official also contested India’s claim that Delhi had opened its airspace for Pakistan, the report said.

“Pakistani flights from Thailand have not been restored since the closure of the Indian airspace.

“Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flights for Malaysia also remain suspended,” the CAA DG informed the committee.

Last month, Pakistan gave special permission to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s VVIP flight to use its airspace for his official trip 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 fly directly through Pakistani airspace to participate in the meeting of SCO foreign ministers in Bishkek on May 21.

India aviation industry has suffered huge losses due to the airspace ban by Pakistan.

On Thursday, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri told Parliament that due to the closure of Pakistan airspace, Air India had to spend an extra Rs 430 crore on longer routes.

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