Pakistan declines India’s request to open airspace until New Delhi deescalates tensions

Updated 12 July 2019

Pakistan declines India’s request to open airspace until New Delhi deescalates tensions

  • Airspace was closed after both countries carried out aerial bombing missions on each other’s soil in February
  • Foreign carriers using Indian airspace have been forced to take costly detours because they cannot fly over Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has declined an Indian request to open its airspace until New Delhi takes actions to deescalate tensions between the warring neighbors, including withdrawing fighter planes in forward positions, Pakistani Aviation Secretary Shah­rukh Nusrat told a parliamentary committee this week. 
The comments follow months of tension between the two countries, which came close to war in February over the disputed region of Kashmir, which both sides have claimed since independence from Britain in 1947.
Following a suicide attack in Indian-controlled Kashmir that killed 40 members of an Indian paramilitary police force in February, Indian jets launched a raid inside Pakistan, with Pakistan conducting a retaliatory strike of its own. Jets from the two countries also fought a brief dogfight in the skies over Kashmir during which an Indian pilot was shot down and captured. Pakistan returned the pilot and there were no further strikes but tensions remained high. 
Pakistan has since kept part of its airspace closed to international air traffic, disrupting flights to India and other parts of the region.
“The Indian government approached asking us to open the airspace,” Nusrart told the Senate Standing Committee on Aviation on Thursday. “We conveyed our concerns that first India must withdraw its fighter planes placed forward.”
Though official talks between Pakistan and India are mostly suspended, track II diplomacy has picked up to help relieve tensions. On Friday, Pakistani and Indian delegates, including journalists, academics, students and activists, met for a backchannel dialogue organized by the Regional Peace Institute in Islamabad to discuss ways to normalize ties. 
“Our basic purpose is to find out a way to move forward and address the areas of concern in both the countries,” said journalist Taimur Shamil who attended the meetings. He said Pakistan and India could cooperate in the fields of education, culture, religious tourism, economy and trade: “Since Pakistan is working on a mega economic activity, there is a huge potential of investment [for India] in our country as well,” he said.
According to RPI director Raoof Hassan, the purpose of the initiative was to “encourage the youth of the two countries to take charge to move forward.”
The second round of the track-II dialogue will take place in New Delhi in September this year.

Pakistan summons Indian diplomat over cross-border firing

Updated 23 min 38 sec ago

Pakistan summons Indian diplomat over cross-border firing

  • Two children among those killed in Kashmir attack by Indian army, Foreign Office says
  • Islamabad says cease-fire violations are a threat to regional peace and security

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Wednesday summoned India’s Deputy High Commissioner Gaurav Ahluwalia to lodge a protest against the unprovoked firing by Indian troops across the border in which three civilians, including two children, were killed, the Foreign Office said.

Mohammad Faisal, Director General South Asia, and SAARC further condemned the cease-fire violations by the Indian forces along the Line of Control (LoC) on Tuesday.

“Due to indiscriminate and unprovoked firing by the Indian Army in Nezapir Sector of LoC, three innocent civilians, Ghulam Qaider s/o Lal Din 55 years, Mariam Bibi 12 years and Haider Ali 10 years, residents of village Kirni, embraced Shahadat (martyrdom) while eight others, including women and children, sustained serious injuries,” excerpts from the statement read.

It added that the Indian forces have been consistently targeting civilian-populated areas with artillery fire, heavy-caliber mortars, and automatic weapons.
“The deliberate targeting of civilian populated areas is indeed deplorable and contrary to human dignity, international human rights, and humanitarian laws,” the statement said, adding that the cease-fire violations are a threat to regional peace and security and may lead to a strategic miscalculation.

There was no immediate comment from India.

Tensions soared high between India and Pakistan since New Delhi revoked Kashmir’s special constitutional status by abolishing Article 370 of the Indian constitution on August 5.

Islamabad reacted with fury to India’s decision, cutting trade and transport ties and expelling India’s ambassador.