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Pakistan extends airspace closure on Indian border to June 14

Dunya News

The closure mainly affects flights from Europe to Southeast Asia.

ISLAMABAD (Dunya News) - Pakistan on Wednesday extended its airspace ban on its eastern border with India till June 14, a civil aviation official said, the latest extension months after a standoff between the arch rivals.

Pakistan had on Feb 26 fully closed its airspace following the violation of its international boundary and airspace by Indian fighter jets. In March, it partially opened its airspace but kept it banned for the Indian flights.

Foreign carriers using Indian airspace have been forced to take costly detours because they cannot fly over Pakistan. The closure mainly affects flights from Europe to Southeast Asia.

“The closure will continue until June 14,” a spokesperson for Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority said, without giving further details.

Airspace partially opened

In April, Pakistan had opened one of its 11 air routes for west-bound flights from India and airlines such Turkish Airlines had started using it. "Pakistan had been opening its airspace in tranches. On Thursday (April 4), it opened one of the 11 routes for west-bound flights."

Even though the route P518 was opened, American airline company United Airlines announced on Friday (April 5) that its flight connecting Newark airport and Delhi airport has been suspended for two weeks.

Air India loses billions

Air India suffered losses of more than 3 billion Indian Rupees (almost 43 million USD) since the Pakistani air space closure. Pakistan has kept its airspace closed since the Indian jets intruded Pakistani airspace and violated the Line of Control.

The airspace was re-opened after the situation de-escalated but the Western-Eastern routes along the Indian border were never opened. Furthermore, Pakistani authorities have not accepted any aircraft registered in India.

Both sides have incurred losses as a result of the airspace closure but Air India has been hit the hardest. Being India’s national carrier and Jet Airways going bankrupt, Air India cannot cancel its flights to various destinations and is currently running in loss.

Air India has lost INR 6 Crore (approximately 0.85 million USD) on a daily basis. The aircraft have to take a longer route and pass through the Arabian Sea in the South to avoid Pakistani air space thus causing Long flight durations, extra fuel consumption and cabin crew expenses.

Flights from Delhi to the Unites States and Canada have been taking an extra 2-3 hours. Similarly, European destinations have been facing increased flight durations and extra stopovers. Longer flight timings are causing an increase in overtime of pilots and crew members.

Pakistan downs Indian military aircraft

In February, Pakistan forces shot down two Indian military aircraft operating in their airspace and captured two pilots in a response to Indian Line of Control (LoC) violation.

Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General (DG) Major General Asif Ghafoor said Pakistan Air Force had engaged six targets from across the Line of Control (LoC) in Occupied Kashmir.

He said Pak armed forces have capability, will, resolve, people backing and all resources. But being a responsible state, we decided that we will not aim any military target. We also wanted to ensure that no human loss or collateral damage is done during our engaging the targets.

He said we selected six targets but we hit the areas close to them while keeping a safe distance, in order to demonstrate our capability. This action was purely in self-defense and with no aggressive designs.

The reaction came after Indian aircrafts intruded into Pakistan airspace and released payload in haste near Balakot. However, they scrambled back on PAF’s timely and effective response.

Following the violation, Pakistan decided to respond to India at its own choice of a time and a place.

The statement issued after the meeting read "Pakistan strongly rejected Indian claim of targeting an alleged terrorist camp near Balakot as well as the claim of heavy casualties. Once again Indian government has resorted to a self-serving, reckless and fictitious claim."

Foreign Minister Qureshi had also warned India of severe consequences, geopolitical ramifications and such moves could aggravate the already simmering tension between both countries.

DG ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor said, “It’s you (India) who is sending war threats. We’re not preparing for a war but we have a right to respond to the war threats from your side.”

Tensions between Pakistan and India escalated since a suicide attack in occupied Kashmir killed 44 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) soldiers. The attack saw explosives packed inside a van rip through buses in a convoy of 78 vehicles carrying some 2,500 members of the paramilitary CRPF.