How refusal to use Pakistan's airspace could kill Srinagar-Sharjah flights
Pakistan has reportedly refused to allow the use of its airspace to flights between Jammu and Kashmir's Srinagar to the United Arab Emirates' Sharjah. The Civil Aviation, External Affairs, and Home Affairs ministries have been alert about Pakistan's refusal. The flights between J&K and UAE were revived just over a week ago by Union Home Minister Amit Shah after a gap of 11 years.
Why does it matter?
- Pakistan's refusal to use its airspace for the flight service will impact the travelers from J&K as the flights will have to take a longer route now.
- The longer route will drive up fuel and ticket costs, making the flight less feasible for travelers.
- A similar move by Pakistan had resulted in the discontinuation of the Srinagar-Dubai flight in 2009-10.
Pakistan's refusal 'surprises' India
Pakistan's refusal to allow access to its airspace to the Srinagar-Sharjah has come as a surprise to India, a top government official told Times Now. Up to October 30, the flight was using the Pakistan airspace, NDTV reported citing flight tracking service Radar24. However, on November 2, it flew over Rajasthan and Gujarat and then turned west flying over the Arabian Sea and Oman.
Will approach international fora: Official
Pakistan "suddenly" started denying access to its airspace after initially giving approving it, a senior official told The Times of India. India has written to Pakistan on the matter and plans to approach the international fora if they do not respond, they said.
Decision to hurt Kashmiris most
Pakistan's decision to refuse its airspace would hurt the Kashmiris most, both connectivity-wise as well as economically. The decision also violates the International Civil Aviation Organisation's (ICAO) First Freedom of the Air. The flights will likely become more expensive due to the longer distance. Traveling will also take roughly one hour more as the plane will have to fly via Udaipur or Ahmedabad.
What happened to Srinagar-Dubai flights in 2009?
The first international flight from Srinagar to Dubai was launched on February 14, 2009, by Air India Express. At the time, Pakistan had similarly denied access to its airspace, making the flight take a longer route. The flight became more expensive and less feasible for travelers, which eventually reduced demand and the service was halted.
'Very unfortunate,' says Omar Abdullah
"Very unfortunate," former J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tweeted reacting to the news. Incidentally, Abdullah had anticipated the latest developments after the flight service was inaugurated on October 23. Another former J&K CM, Mehbooba Mufti, said it was puzzling the Indian government did not "even bother securing permission from Pakistan." "PR extravaganza without groundwork," Mufti tweeted.
Modi's recent flights used Pakistan airspace
Notably, Pakistan had allowed Prime Minister Narendra Modi's VVIP flight to use its airspace when he recently flew to Europe for the G20 and the COP26 summits. Modi's flight was also allowed access when he flew to Washington in the United States in September. Earlier this year, Pakistan PM Imran Khan's flight was allowed to use the Indian airspace for his Sri Lanka visit.