Pakistan’s decision to shut its airspace for all Indian flights till June 28 was a problem for them and the Indian Air Force never stopped civil air traffic operations in the country, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa said on Monday.
Speaking at an event at the Gwalior airbase to commemorate 20 years of the Kargil war, Dhanoa said, “They (Pakistan) have closed their airspace that is their problem. Our economy is vibrant and air traffic is a very important part. You have noticed that the Air Force has never stopped our civil air traffic.”
The IAF chief made the remarks while responding to queries on Islamabad’s move to shut its airspace on the eastern border with India following the Balakot airstrikes on a Jaish-e-Mohammed terror camp on February 26. The strikes were in response to the terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district in which 40 CRPF personnel lost their lives on February 14.
In March, Pakistan had partially opened its airspace for all flights, barring those coming from India. Since then, foreign carriers using the Indian airspace have been compelled to take long detours. The closure has affected several flights from Europe to Southeast Asia.
Explaining how India never allowed its tension with the neighbouring country to impact air services, Dhanoa said, “Only on February 27 (this year) we had stopped Srinagar airspace for two-three hours. We did not allow tension with Pakistan to dictate our civil aviation because our economy is much bigger and much stronger as compared to theirs.”
Dhanoa also said that Pakistan Air Force planes did not cross the Line of Control (LoC) during the February 27 dogfight. “Pakistan did not come into our airspace. Our objective was to strike terror camps. Their objective was to target army places. None of them crossed the border. We achieved our military objective. None of them crossed the Line of Control into our territory,” he said.
When asked if the AN-32 aircraft would be replaced in the near future following the crash in Arunachal Pradesh, Dhanoa said it would continue to fly in mountainous areas.
“We don’t have any replacement. We are in process of getting more modern aircraft which will be put in a critical role once received, and AN-32 will be out and used for transport and training purposes,” he said. All 13 people on board the transport aircraft died in the crash in a heavily forested mountainous area in Arunachal Pradesh this month.
(With inputs from ANI)