September 19, 2019
The latest in a series of escalating diplomatic tit-for-tats.
The government on Wednesday announced its decision not to grant India’s request for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to use Pakistani airspace for his flight to Germany.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that the decision has been made “keeping in view the situation in occupied Kashmir”.
“A request was received from India saying that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks to use Pakistani airspace for an overflight on the 20th to Germany and wishes to use the same for a return flight on the 28th,” said the foreign minister in a video statement.
“Keeping in view the situation in occupied Kashmir and India’s attitude witnessed in the tyranny and oppression [suffered by Kashmiris] and the violations of rights in the region, we have decided not to grant this request,” he said.
The Indian government had formally submitted a request last week for the use of Pakistani airspace following which Pakistan looked into calling a high-level advisory meeting on the matter, according to diplomatic sources.
The sources had told DawnNewsTV that Modi’s flight would pass over Pakistani airspace on September 20 on his way to the US where he will attend the United Nations General Assembly and address a gathering of Indian-Americans in Houston.
Prime Minister Imran Khan will also address the UNGA on September 27.
As per international law, the sources had said, Pakistan is bound to grant permission to the Indian premier. If it is rejected, India can appeal to the International Civil Aviation Organisation as a result of which Pakistan may be required to pay a hefty fine.
The request comes at a time of high tension between Pakistan and India following the Indian government’s decision to unilaterally revoke Article 370 of its constitution, which granted special autonomy to occupied Kashmir. A communications blackout and heavy restrictions on movement imposed by the Indian authorities from the eve of this development have been in place for 45 days now.
Earlier in September, Pakistan had decided to refuse a request by India to allow its president Ram Nath Kovind to use Pakistani airspace for his flight to Iceland.
The government had also considered closing the entire Pakistani airspace to Indian flights. However, no decision was taken on the matter.
In February, Pakistan had closed its airspace to Indian traffic after aerial dogfights following the Pulwama attack ratcheted up tensions between Islamabad and New Delhi. It reopened its skies for all civilian traffic in July, ending months of restrictions affecting major international routes.
Following this, in August, Modi used Pakistan’s airspace to travel to France for an official visit.