By: Shukria Kohistani
KABUL: Pakistan extended its airspace ban for the fifth time to India till July 26, the country’s civil aviation authority announced, news agencies reported.
Pakistan fully closed its airspace on February 26 after the Indian Air Force fighter jets struck a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist training camp in Balakot following the Pulwama terror attack in Kashmir.
“Pakistani airspace will be closed until July 26 along its eastern border with India. The Panjgoor airspace will remain open for overflying transit flights from the western side as Air India had already been using that airspace,” the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority said.
A Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority official said as quoted by the PTI that the Pakistan government will review whether to open its space for Indian flights or not on July 26.
“However, this issue is a bilateral one and no progress will be made till both Islamabad and New Delhi decide it mutually,” he said.
Last month, Pakistan gave special permission to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flight to use its airspace for his official trip to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. However, Modi’s aircraft avoided flying over Pakistan.
Meanwhile Afghanistan’s Civil Aviation Authority (ACAA) said last Tuesday that two alternative new air routes have been inaugurated following closure of Pakistani airspace for the Afghan overflights for more than four months now.
The newly launched airways would facilitate flights from Afghanistan and connect eastern and western Asia, ACAA said in a statement, adding the routes passed through the airspace of Tajikistan to travel to China and East Asia.
According to the statement, the ACAA established one of the new air corridor on last Monday following an agreement with the Civil Aviation Authority of Tajikistan.
Meanwhile, the other east-west route which earlier passed through Pakistan airspace has been opened by bypassing Pakistan. “No wall commercial flights connect East Asia to West Asia without crossing Pakistani airspace.”
Opening of the new flight routes would shorten flight distance between East Asia and West Asia. Fly Dubai, Qatar Airways and other airlines are expected to use the new routes.
The ACAA said that the launch of the new routes had been welcomed by airlines and the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
The authority also lauded these new routes as crucial in strengthening the Afghan airspace capacity. The authority had earlier announced that since Pakistan closed its airspace, Afghanistan incurred $15 million due to decreased flights across Afghanistan.
This Pakistan airspace closure resulted in suspension of 400 to 500 flights which used to fly across Afghanistan into Pakistan and some India airlines suspended their flights to Afghanistan as well.
However, Indian flights en-route Afghanistan resumed through Iran’s airspace to avoid Pakistan; however, the flights are time-consuming with doubled air fares for passengers and they complain about the hike of ticket prices.