Lahore: Pakistan on Monday decided in principle to let Prime Minister Narendra Modi's aircraft fly over its airspace to Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan, where he has to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit on 13-14 June. His Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan will also be present.
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.
India requested Pakistan to let Modi's aircraft fly over its airspace to Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan.
"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," the official said, adding Pakistan was hopeful that India would respond to its offer for peace dialogue.
He said 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.
No bilateral meeting has been planned between Modi and Khan on the sidelines of the SCO Summit.
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.
Similarly, full-service carrier Air India is unable to fly non-stop flights from Delhi to the US since the closure of Pakistani airspace. Pakistan, however, has extended its partial airspace ban on the eastern border with India until 14 June.
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Updated Date: Jun 11, 2019 10:10:49 IST