Air India One flying Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the Kyrgyzstan capital of Bishkek for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit starting on Thursday will avoid Pakistani airspace and will instead travel over Oman, Iran and Central Asian countries.
The news comes after unconfirmed media reports said that Pakistan has approved "in principle" India's request to allow Modi's aircraft fly over its airspace to Bishkek to attend the SCO summit this week. The PTI report quoted a senior Pakistani official, who also expressed hope that New Delhi would respond to Islamabad's offer for peace dialogue.
India apparently had put in a request with Pakistan to let Prime Minister Modi's aircraft fly over its airspace. Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan is also attending the meeting of the regional grouping scheduled for two days -- 13 and 14 June.
"The Indian government will be conveyed about the decision once the procedural formalities are completed. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will also be directed to notify the airmen subsequently," a Pakistani official had earlier said, adding that his country was hopeful that India would respond to its offer for peace dialogue.
Pakistan had fully closed its airspace on 26 February after an Indian Air Force (IAF) strike on a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror camp in Balakot. Since then, it has only opened two routes, both of them pass through southern Pakistan, of the total 11.
He said Prime Minister Imran Khan has recently written a letter to his Indian counterpart stressing Pakistan requires a solution for all geopolitical issues including Kashmir between the two neighbouring states.
The official further said Pakistan is still optimistic that India will respond to peace offer despite the fact both premiers were not meeting at the sidelines of the SCO Summit.
External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar in New Delhi said no bilateral meeting has been arranged between Prime Minister Modi and his Pakistani counterpart on the sidelines of the SCO Summit. India maintains that terror and talks cannot go together.
Pakistan had given special permission to India's then external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj to fly directly through Pakistani airspace to attend the SCO Foreign Ministers' meet in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on 21 May. Apart from the two routes through southern Pakistan, the neighbouring country's airspace remains closed for commercial airliners.
The IAF announced on 31 May that all temporary restrictions imposed on Indian airspace post the Balakot airstrike have been removed. However, it is unlikely to benefit any commercial airliners unless Pakistan reciprocates and opens its complete airspace.
Among Indian airlines, the international operations of Air India and IndiGo have been affected by the closure of Pakistani airspace. IndiGo, India's largest airline by share in domestic passenger market, has been unable to start direct flights from Delhi to Istanbul due to the closure of Pakistani airspace.
The low-cost carrier started the Delhi-Istanbul flight in March this year. It has to take the longer route every time over the Arabian Sea and make a stop either at Doha in Qatar or at Ahmedabad in Gujarat for refuelling. Pakistan, however, has extended its partial airspace ban on eastern border with India until 14 June.
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Jun 12, 2019 15:00:43 IST