New Delhi: Pakistan has extended its airspace ban along its eastern border for commercial flights on Friday until India de-escalates its fighter jets from Indian Air Force (IAF) airbases.
Pakistan’s Aviation Secretary Shahrukh Nusrat informed a parliamentary committee that the neighbouring country will not allow a resumption of flight operations from India until the fighter jets are withdrawn from the forward position.
“The Indian government approached us asking to open the airspace. We conveyed our concerns that first India must withdraw its fighter planes placed forward,” Nusrat said.
Pakistan had announced a full closure of airspace on February 26 following the Balakot airstrikes where the IAF fighter jets attacked a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist training camp to avenge the death of 40 CRPF personnel in Pulwama on February 14.
As a result of the restrictions, all flights have been diverted to alternative routes by India. Nusrat, who is also the Director General of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), contested that while India claims to have opened its airspace for Pakistan, Pakistani flights from Thailand and Malaysia have not been restored since India’s airspace closure.
Last month, Pakistan had temporarily opened its airspace giving special permission to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his official trip to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
The Aviation Secretary remarks were in response to questions from members of the committee, who were inquiring about profitable and loss-making routes of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).
The Indian aviation industry has suffered major losses due to the airspace ban along Pakistan’s eastern border with India. Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri told the Parliament that Air India had to spend Rs 430 crore extra to cover for its longer routes.