Pak opens airspace, Civil Aviation Ministry calls it a ‘great news’

New Delhi: Making a climb down from its July 12 stance that it would not open its airspace until India withdraws all its fighter planes from the Indo-Pak border, Pakistan on Tuesday announced its decision to open the airspace for ‘all type of civil traffic’ with immediate effect.
The announcement, which is likely to help Indian airlines including state-run Air India, came close on the heels after United Airlines Holdings said it was extending the suspension of its flights from the United States to Delhi and Mumbai in India until October 26 due to continued restriction of Pakistani airspace.
“This is a great news. A big relief to air passengers,” Usha Padhee, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Civil Aviation tweeted.
The missive in the micro blogging site was retweeted by Air India as well.
Last Friday, a government source here asserted: “….there cannot be any negotiation on some sovereign decisions from the Indian side about force movement along the border.”
On July 12, Pakistan Aviation Secretary Shahrukh Nusrat, who is also the Director General of the Pakistani Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) has said: “The Indian government approached asking us to open the airspace. We conveyed our concerns that first India must withdraw its fighter planes placed forward.”
Pakistan government’s move is expected to give a major relief to Air India.
Pakistan closed its airspace for India on February 26 after the Indian Air Force jets struck a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist training camp in Balakot following the Pulwama terror attack.
Last month, Pakistan had given a special permission to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s VVIP flight to fly directly through Pakistani airspace to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan.
However, Mr Modi’s VVIP aircraft avoided flying over Pakistan.
Earlier, Pakistan had allowed India’s former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to use its airspace for her official trip to participate in the meeting of SCO foreign ministers in Bishkek on May 21.
Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Puri told Parliament last week here that due to the closure of Pakistani airspace, Air India had to cough up approximately Rs 430 crore extra expenditures.
“…..the closure of Pakistani airspace has resulted in Air India cumulatively taking a loss of something like Rs 430 crore,” Mr Puri had said in Lok Sabha.

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