Pakistan airspace closure: Extended till 14 June, Pakistan's behavior hits inl air traffic and its own economy
India-Pakistan flights not to resume operations before June 14. But what is Pakistan thinking?
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What started as a defence exigency is now staring at the latest political developments in both countries as India-Pakistan's airspace closure has been extended till June 14.
Pakistan closed its airspace entirely in February, following the IAF’s Balakot air-strike. It was partially opened for domestic flights and international flights that were either originating from Pakistan or are Pakistan-bound.
Flights between India and Pakistan are not operating. Flights using India-Pakistan airspace have been rerouted — resulting in long flying hours, overshooting costs, etc.
In February, it was a defence decision.
Three months down the line, it is political — beyond the aviation authorities of both the countries.
This is a bilateral situation, true. But the ramifications are international.
Both India and Pakistan are bearing the brunt of the closure — especially given Pakistan’s present economic crisis. (The dollar has reached a historical high of Rs 148 in Pakistan).
But the issue has evidently been put on a slow backburner.
Passing the buck
Pakistan, of course, is blaming India for not showing any interest in “de-escalation”.
Pakistan’s foreign office spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal told Dawn, “We want de-escalation. If de-escalation takes place, we would not like to have a ban (on our airspace for India) for a single day but for the purpose, it (India) will have to talk to us. India should show rational behaviour and must understand that issues will not be resolved through confrontation.”
From February to April, about 513 cases of ceasefire violations have been reported.
This figure, of course, doesn’t match the spirit of de-escalation.
A bilateral issue snowballing into an aviation emergency. (Photo: FlightRadar24)
So, why buying time?
The results of the Lok Sabha Elections 2019 were out on May 23.
Clearly, Pakistan had initially bought time till May 30 to review the opening of its airspace. It hoped by that time, the new government — and it would clearly have preferred a softer non-Modi government — would be formed, with a new policy towards Pakistan.
But neither has happened. PM Modi has returned to power and there has been no thaw in the relationship (Imran Khan was not invited to Modi's swearing-in). Hence, the decision on reopening Pakistan's air space has been postponed to June 14.
A clear case of holding airspace hostage to politics!
The present situation looks like this: India wants Pakistan to stop funding terrorism. Pakistan wants India to de-escalate bilateral tension. Seeing these two ever-acrimonious neighbours, international airlines are taking a longer route.
There is no end to this chaotic situation in sight because the stonewalling will continue. And both India and Pakistan, it seems, have more important issues at hand to address.