Gwalior: That Pakistan had shut its airspace for all Indian flights till June 28 was a problem for the neighbouring country and the Indian Air Force never stopped civil air traffic operations in the country, Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa said on Monday.

At an event at the Gwalior airbase to commemorate 20 years of the Kargil war, Dhanoa said, “They (Pakistan) have closed their airspace that is their problem. Our economy is vibrant and air traffic is a very important part. You have noticed that the Air Force has never stopped our civil air traffic.”

Dhanoa was responding to queries on Pakistan’s move to shut its airspace following the Balakot airstrikes on a Jaish-e-Mohammed terror camp on February 26. The strikes were in response to the terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district in which 40 CRPF personnel were martyred on February 14.

Since March, when Pakistan had partially opened its airspace for all flights, except those coming from India, foreign carriers have been taking long detours. The closure has affected several flights from Europe to Southeast Asia.

Dhanoa insisted how India never allowed its tension with the neighbouring country to hit the air services and said, “Only on February 27 we had stopped Srinagar airspace for two-three hours. We did not allow tension with Pakistan to dictate our civil aviation because our economy is much bigger and much stronger as compared to theirs.”

He said that Pakistan Air Force planes did not cross the Line of Control (LoC) during the February 27 dogfight. “Pakistan did not come into our airspace. Our objective was to strike terror camps. Their objective was to target Army places. None of them crossed the border. We achieved our military objective. None of them crossed the Line of Control into our territory,” he said.

On the AN-32 aircraft, one of which recently crashed in a heavily forested area in Arunachal, killing all 13 people onboard, Dhanoa said, “We don’t have any replacement. We are in process of getting more modern aircraft which will be put in a critical role once received, and AN-32 will be out and used for transport and training purposes,” he said.