Indian President denied the use of Pakistani airspace amid heightened tensions 

An arial view of the airplane hub at the airport in Karachi, Pakistan February 3, 2017. ( REUTERS/File )
Updated 08 September 2019

Indian President denied the use of Pakistani airspace amid heightened tensions 

  • India says Pakistan’s denial of airspace is ‘futile’ action
  • PM Modi was allowed the use of Pakistani airspace as diplomatic move ‘for optics’: experts

ISLAMABAD: Islamabad on Saturday turned down a request made by India seeking permission for President Ram Nath Kovind to fly through Pakistani airspace on his way to Iceland. 
The denial comes amid heightened tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbors over the disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir after India flooded the valley with troops and cut off communications as Prime Minister Narendra Modi withdrew special legal rights and autonomy for Kashmir on August 5.
“Given the situation where India has taken a rigid position, unwilling to lift the imposed curfew, and depriving people (of Indian-administered Kashmir) of basic facilities, Pakistan has decided not to allow India and its President use of our airspace,” Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told media on Saturday.
A senior foreign office official who asked not to be named told Arab News that the permission sought was for this Sunday.
“We regret the decision of the Government of Pakistan to deny overflight clearance for the VVIP special flight which is otherwise granted routinely by any normal country,” a spokesperson for India’s Ministry of External Affairs, Raveesh Kumar, said on Saturday. “We call upon Pakistan to recognize the futility of such unilateral actions.”
Last month, less than three weeks after India’s decision to revoke Kashmir’s special status, Prime Minister Modi was given permission to use Pakistani airspace on his way to Paris from New Delhi as a gesture of good diplomacy.
“It was a diplomatic move for optics as he was traveling to France to attend the G-7 Summit followed by his visits to UAE and Bahrain respectively,” Dr. Raja Qaiser Ahmed, a foreign affairs analyst and academic, told Arab News.
“The purpose was to garner goodwill amid curfew in Kashmir and send a message to the major powers that Pakistan wanted peace with India and consequently gestured positively,” he said.
But the Kashmir issue was never brought up at the summit, and the overture “backfired,” he said.
“The latest decision (to refuse the use of airspace) was made in concordant with the lesson learned from the previous decision,” Ahmed said, and added Pakistan was left with limited options “to change India’s intransigent behavior.”
Pakistan’s announcement that it had refused the use of its airspace to the Indian President comes a day after the country commemorated its 54th Defense Day, a public holiday to celebrate its armed forces and pay tribute to fallen soldiers in the 1965 war with India, one of two wars fought over Kashmir.
In his Defense Day statement on the website of state-run Radio Pakistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan said he had “informed the world that Pakistan does not want war, but at the same time, Pakistan cannot remain oblivious to the challenges posed to its security and integrity.”
Earlier, Pakistan closed its airspace to Indian traffic after aerial dogfights in February in the skies over Kashmir raised tensions between Islamabad and New Delhi. It finally reopened its skies for all civilian traffic in July, ending months of restrictions which had affected major international routes and thousands of travelers who were forced to take costly and time-consuming detours as alternatives.
After India’s sudden abrogation of Kashmir’s special status, Pakistan has suspended all ground transportation, downgraded its diplomatic ties with New Delhi, expelled the Indian High Commissioner and suspended bilateral trade with its eastern neighbor.
According to Pakistan’s retired Air Vice Marshall Abid Rao, Jammu and Kashmir is “a matter of ego” for both countries, and leaves them unable to “disengage honorably” to settle their seven-decade long dispute.
Rao told Arab News that the new generation of Kashmiris wanted “a free Kashmir... than to become part of any country,” and said it was time for a plebiscite.
Earlier, Pakistan’s army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa addressed a defense day function in the city of Rawalpindi, and said in a televised speech that Pakistan was ready to “give sacrifice for our Kashmiri brothers...and we are prepared to go till any extent.”
India says that 90 percent of the Kashmir valley is now free of restrictions on daytime movement with some landline phone connections restored. But checkpoints remain in place and communication restrictions have made reporting from the region difficult.


Pakistanis among dead in Madinah bus accident

Updated 17 October 2019

Pakistanis among dead in Madinah bus accident

  • The crash took place when a privately chartered bus carrying 39 pilgrims collided with a loader
  • Reports indicate only four bus passengers survived the tragedy, some in critical condition

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Thursday expressed profound grief and sorrow over the tragic road accident that claimed the lives of 35 pilgrims in Saudi Arabia.

According to media reports, the accident happened when a privately chartered bus carrying 39 passengers collided with a loader near Madinah at about 7pm on Wednesday.

Pakistan’s foreign office confirmed in a press statement that “the deceased also include a certain number of Pakistani nationals.”

“Of the four survivors,” the handout continued, “there is one Pakistani named Mr. Akbar, who is seriously injured. The Pakistan Consulate General in Jeddah has established contact with him and is in touch with the concerned Saudi authorities and staff of the King Fahad Hospital, Madinah, to ascertain details of casualties of Pakistani nationals.”

Reacting to the development, the foreign minister said his ministry was in touch with the Saudi authorities to ascertain the causes of the accident.

“Our diplomatic mission is in contact with the Saudi authorities to ensure that the injured get the best medical facilities and the bodies of the deceased are smoothly flown back to Pakistan,” Qureshi added.