India takes Pak to ICAO for denying airspace use

Last Updated 29 October 2019, 02:09 IST

India has moved the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) against Pakistan after Imran Khan’s government in Islamabad turned down its request for allowing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s special aircraft to fly over the neighbouring country on its way to Saudi Arabia.

As the Air India One – the special VVIP aircraft of the national carrier – will now fly to Riyadh avoiding the airspace of Pakistan, it will take Prime Minister 45 minutes more than the usual time to reach the capital of Saudi Arabia. The aircraft will also avoid Cyclone Kyarr, which has intensified into a first super-cyclone – the first in the Arabian Sea in the last 12 years.

Modi is expected to arrive in Riyadh late at night on Monday. He will meet King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, apart from delivering the keynote address at the third session of the Future Investment Initiative Forum, hosted by the government of the kingdom.

Islamabad turned down New Delhi’s request for allowing Prime Minister’s special aircraft to fly over Pakistan for his visit to Saudi Arabia. This is the second time the Khan government declined New Delhi’s permission to Prime Minister’s special aircraft to fly over Pakistan. It earlier denied over-flight clearance to Air India One, when Prime Minister was to fly to Houston and New York for the “Howdy! Modi” event and the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) respectively on September 21 and return to New Delhi on September 27. It also did not allow President Ram Nath Kovind’s aircraft to fly over Pakistan for his visit to Iceland, Switzerland and Slovenia from September 9 to 17. Islamabad’s denial of over-flight permission to special aircraft of President and Prime Minister of India escalated tension between the two neighbouring nations over Jammu and Kashmir.

New Delhi regretted the decision of the government of Pakistan to deny over-flight clearance for the VVIP special aircraft once again. A source in New Delhi pointed out that any normal country routinely granted over-flight permission to the leaders of other countries.

Modi's special aircraft will now fly from New Delhi to Mumbai before flying over Arabian Sea to Riyadh, avoiding over-flying Karachi. The flight plan has factored in the trajectory of the Cyclone Kyarr.

“Over-flight clearances are sought, and granted by other countries as per prescribed ICAO guidelines and India will continue to seek such over-flight clearances,” the source said, after the Khan government turned down New Delhi’s latest request to permit the aircraft of Prime Minister to fly over Pakistan.

“Separately,” the source said, “we have taken up the matter of such denial with the relevant international civil aviation body.”

The ICAO charter provides that all nations should give over-flight clearances to the aircraft of other nations’ leaders, unless they were at war.

India expects Pakistan to reflect upon its decision to deviate from well established international practice, as well as reconsider its old habit of misrepresenting the reasons for taking unilateral action, said sources in New Delhi.

Tension between the two South Asian neighbours escalated after Pakistan launched a diplomatic campaign against India, criticizing the August 5 decision of the Modi government in New Delhi to strip Jammu and Kashmir of its special status and to reorganize the state into two Union Territories. But Islamabad had allowed Air India's special aircraft with Prime Minister on board to fly over Pakistan on its way from New Delhi to Paris on August 22. He had also flown over Pakistan while returning to New Delhi after attending the G-7 summit at Biarritz in France on August 27.

Prime Minister's flight over Pakistan on August 22 had been his first after tension between New Delhi and Islamabad had reached a flashpoint over terrorist attack killing over 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel at Pulwama in J&K on February 14 and the retaliatory air strike by India on a terror camp at Balakot in Pakistan on February 26.

Khan's Government had drawn flak from opposition parties in Pakistan after it had accepted the New Delhi request to allow Indian Prime Minister's aircraft to fly over its airspace on August 22 and 27.

Pakistan had earlier closed its airspace for all aircraft flying to or from India after escalation of tension in February. It had reopened its skies for all civilian aircraft in July.

(Published 28 October 2019, 03:18 IST)

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