Modi to avoid Pak overflight; take longer route to SCO

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will fly over Oman, Iran and several Central Asian countries to reach Bishkek for Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. (Reuters Photo)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's aircraft will not fly over Pakistan when he travels to Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan on Thursday for a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, ignoring Islamabad's offer to use its airspace for quicker transit.

The Ministry of External Affairs announced on Wednesday that Air India One ferrying the Prime Minister will take a longer route and fly over Oman, Iran and Central Asian countries to reach Bishkek.

“The government of India had explored two options for the route to be taken by the VVIP Aircraft to Bishkek. A decision has now been taken that the VVIP Aircraft will fly via Oman, Iran and Central Asian countries on the way to Bishkek,” External Affairs Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said in response to questions on the issue.

The government decision is seen as a snub to Pakistan, which had reportedly given an “in principle” approval for Modi's plane to fly over its airspace for the flight to Bishkek.

After India carried out air strike at Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terror camp in Balakot on February 26, Pakistan had fully closed its airspace but lately opened two routes, which pass through southern parts of the country.

Last month, Pakistan had granted permission for the then External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to fly to the Kyrgyzstan capital of Bishkek for the SCO foreign ministers’ meeting in May.

India too had put temporary restrictions on its airspace after the Balakot air strikes but had lifted the same on May 31. However, India relaxing the restrictions was unlikely to benefit any commercial airliners unless Pakistan reciprocates and opens its complete airspace.

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