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Pakistan again threatens closure of its airspace, land routes

Pakistan had closed its airspace on February 26, after IAF fighter jets struck a Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terrorist training camp in Balakot in retaliation to the Pulwama terror attack on February 14.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi | Updated: August 28, 2019 7:06:27 am
Pakistan again threatens closure of its airspace, land routes Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan. (The New York Times)

IN A fresh round of diplomatic offensive against India, Pakistan is again considering closure of its airspace for Indian flights.

“PM is considering a complete closure of airspace to India, a complete ban on use of Pakistan land routes for Indian trade to Afghanistan was also suggested in cabinet meeting, legal formalities for these decisions are under consideration,” Pakistan’s Minister of Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry tweeted after a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

Chaudhry is a close aide of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan. “Modi has started we’ll finish!” he tweeted, referring to the Narendra Modi government’s decision to revoke J&K’s special status.

This comes a day after Prime Minister Modi, during his meeting with US President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the G7 Summit in France, categorically rejected any scope for third party mediation between India and Pakistan on Kashmir.

Pakistan had closed its airspace on February 26, after IAF fighter jets struck a Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terrorist training camp in Balakot in retaliation to the Pulwama terror attack on February 14.

Also Read | Will go to any extent to save 80 lakh Kashmiris from Indian atrocities: Imran Khan

It opened its airspace for all civilian traffic on July 16, after more than four-and-a-half months.

Air India operates around 50 flights daily through Pakistani airspace — to the US, Europe and the Middle East.

In July, the government said that the country’s airlines suffered losses worth Rs 548 crore due to closure of Pakistan’s airspace. In a written response to a question in Rajya Sabha in July, Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation (Independent Charge) Hardeep Singh Puri said that Air India lost Rs 491 crore till July 2, while IndiGo suffered a loss of Rs 25.1 crore till May 31. SpiceJet and GoAir lost Rs 30.73 crore and Rs 2.1 crore respectively till June 20.

Explained: How Pakistan airspace closure will impact Indian airlines

“The airspace closure by Pakistan is a unilateral measure that followed the non-military counter-terrorism airstrike by the Indian Air Force against terror camp in Balakot in Pakistan in February 2019,” Puri had said in Rajya Sabha.

Earlier this month, Pakistan decided to downgrade diplomatic ties and expelled the Indian High Commissioner. It also stopped all bilateral trade. Pakistan PM Khan has said that he will raise the Kashmir issue at every international forum, including at the UN General Assembly next month.

Also Read | G-7 summit: Trump listening, Modi says Kashmir is a bilateral issue

Ceasefire violation at LoC in Poonch

Pakistani troops on Tuesday resorted to unprovoked mortar shelling and small arms fire along the Line of Control in Poonch district. The ceasefire violation started around 6.30 pm, said a defence ministry spokesperson Lt Colonel Devender Anand. India retaliated befittingly, he said, adding that the firing stopped at 8 pm. —ENS, Jammu

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