Lahore: For the fifth time, Pakistan extended its airspace ban along its eastern border with India till July 26, the country’s civil aviation authority announced Friday.
Pakistan fully closed its airspace 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. In March, Pakistan partially opened its airspace but kept the ban for Indian flights.
“Pakistani airspace will be closed until July 26 along its eastern border with India. The Panjgoor airspace will remain open for overflying transit flights from the western side as Air India had already been using that airspace,” the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said in a notice.
A CAA official told this agency that the Pakistan government will review whether to open its space for Indian flights or not, July 26. “However, this issue is a bilateral one and no progress will be made till both Islamabad and New Delhi decide it mutually,” he informed.
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 the aircraft avoided flying over Pakistan.
Earlier, Pakistan had allowed India’s former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to fly directly though Pakistani airspace to participate in the meeting of SCO foreign ministers in Bishkek, May 21.
The Indian aviation industry has suffered huge losses due to the airspace ban by Pakistan. India’s Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri told Parliament, Thursday that due to the closure of Pakistan airspace, Air India had to spend an extra Rs 430 crore on longer routes.
Pakistan’s Aviation Secretary Shahrukh Nusrat said,” The Indian government had asked us to open the airspace. We conveyed our concerns that first India must withdraw its fighter planes placed forward.” He added that Pakistan was ready to open its airspace provided India de-escalates.