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June 2, 2019

Pakistan likely to lift airspace ban on India

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June 2, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Saturday indicated it may lift the airspace ban along its eastern border with India, imposed on February 27 after the Balakot airstrke, to reciprocate India’s decision to remove all restrictions on all air routes in the Indian airspace.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) on Friday announced on Twitter: “Temporary restrictions on all air routes in the Indian airspace, imposed by the Indian Air Force on 27 Feb 19, have been removed.” Reacting to India’s decision, a senior official of the Pakistan government said, “Once the Indian government lifts the air restriction on Pakistani flights, Pakistan is likely to reciprocate it.” The official was quoted as saying by PTI news agency that India has yet to inform Pakistan about lifting of airspace ban for its flights. “We only heard about this through the media as no communication in this respect has taken place as yet. We may follow suit once India lifts air restrictions on our flights,” he said.

The IAF said it had removed restrictions that were imposed on all routes a day after its 12 Mirage 2000s crossed over to Pakistan and conducted air strikes in Balakot. Pakistan fully closed its airspace on February 27. On March 27, it opened its airspace for all flights except for New Delhi, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. On May 15, Pakistan extended its airspace ban for flights to India till May 30. As a result of the ban, foreign carriers using Indian airspace were forced to take costly detours because they could not fly over Pakistan. The closure mainly affects flights from Europe to Southeast Asia. The flights from Europe and the US flying in and out of New Delhi were the worst hit.

Since Pakistan’s airspace closure, the airfare on many routes went up significantly, including Delhi-Kabul, Delhi- Moscow, Delhi-Tehran and Delhi-Astana. Two Indian airline companies, Air India and SpiceJet, have already stopped their Delhi-Kabul flights due to Pakistan airspace closure.

Pakistan had given a special permission to India for then External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to fly directly through Pakistani airspace to attend the SCO meet in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on May 21. However, the airspace for other commercial airliners remained closed.

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