Pakistan says won't open airspace until India withdraws jets from forward airbases

Pakistan has told India that it will not open its airspace for commercial flights until the IAF fighter jets are removed from forward airbases, a top aviation official has informed a parliamentary committee, as Islamabad on Friday for the fifth time extended the airspace ban along its eastern border with India till July 26.

Pakistan fully closed its airspace on February 26 after the Indian Air Force (IAF) fighter jets struck a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) training camp in Balakot following the Pulwama attack in Kashmir.

Pakistan’s Aviation Secretary Shahrukh Nusrat, who is also the Director General of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), on Thursday informed the Senate Standing Committee on Aviation that his department has intimated Indian officials that Pakistani airspace would remain unavailable for use by India until the country withdraws its fighter jets from forward positions, Dawn News reported.

“The Indian government approached asking us to open the airspace. We conveyed our concerns that first India must withdraw its fighter planes placed forward,” Nusrat told the committee.

This is probably the first time a senior Pakistani official has publicly stated Islamabad’s precondition for reopening its airspace after the Balakot air strikes.

He apprised the committee that Indian officials have contacted Pakistan requesting it to lift the airspace restrictions.

“However, Indian officials have been told that Indian airbases are still laden with fighter jets and Pakistan will not allow resumption of flight operations from India until their removal,” said Nusrat.

Meanwhile, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said in a notice that the 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 notice said.

A CAA official told 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. PTI