Pak declines India's airspace request for Prez's flight

India asks Pak to recognise the 'futility' of such actions

Ram Nath Kovind

Pakistan has turned down India's request for allowing President Ram Nath Kovind's special aircraft to fly through the airspace of the neighbouring country for his forthcoming visit to Iceland, Switzerland and Slovenia.

India regretted the decision of Pakistan and called upon the neighbouring country to recognize the futility of such actions.

“We regret the decision of the Government of Pakistan to deny overflight clearance for the VVIP special flight which is otherwise granted routinely by any normal country. We call upon Pakistan to recognize the futility of such unilateral actions,” Raveesh Kumar, offcial spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, said in New Delhi.

New Delhi had requested Islamabad for permission for the special aircraft of President of India for flying through the airspace of Pakistan for his visit to the three nations from September 9 to 17.

Prime Minister Imran Khan's Government in Islamabad turned down New Delhi's request for permission for Air India's special aircraft to fly over Pakistan in view of India's “oppression” on people of Kashmir, the neighbouring country's national broadcaster PTV reported, quoting its Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Quereshi.

Tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad escalated over the past few weeks after Pakistan opposed India's August 5 decision to strip its northernmost state – Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) – of special status and reorganize it into two Union Territories.

Kovind is set to commence his visit to the three nations with a two-day-tour to Iceland from Monday to Wednesday. He will then visit Switzerland from September 11 to 15 and to Slovenia from September 16 to 17.

With Pakistan turning down India's request for overflight permission for the Air India's special aircraft, the Rashtrapati Bhavan now may have to reschedule departure of the President and his entourage from New Delhi for Reykjavík. The departure from Ljubljana for New Delhi at the end of his visit may also require rescheduling, sources in New Delhi said.

Notwithstanding its diplomatic blitzkrieg against New Delhi's decisions on J&K, the Air India's special aircraft with Prime Minister on board had flown over Pakistan on August 22. Modi had to fly first to Paris for a bilateral visit to France. He had also flown over Pakistan while returning to New Delhi after attending the G-7 summit at Biarritz in France on August 27.

Islamabad had granted overflight permission to Prime Minister's special aircraft after New Delhi had asked for it.

Prime Minister's flight over Pakistan on August 22 had been his first after tension between New Delhi and Islamabad had reached a flash-point 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 closed its airspace for all aircraft flying to or from India after escalation of tension in February. It reopened its skies for all civilian aircraft in July. But after New Delhi's recent move on J&K, Pakistan's Science and Technology Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain tweeted that Khan Government was considering to closing the airspace for India again.

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