Air India suffered loss of Rs 430 crore due to Pak airspace closure

New Delhi: Pakistan has told India that it will not open its airspace for commercial flights until New Delhi removes its fighter jets from forwarding IAF airbases, Pakistan’s Aviation Secretary Shahrukh Nusrat has informed a parliamentary committee.

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

Aviation Secretary 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 forwarding 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.

He further 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 the resumption of flight operations from India until their removal, said Nusrat.

After the restrictions, all the passenger flights are being diverted to alternative routes by India, The Express Tribune reported.

The CAA official also contested India’s claim that Delhi had opened its airspace for Pak, the report said.

“Pak flights from Thailand have not been restored since the closure of the Indian airspace. Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flights for Malaysia also remain suspended,” the CAA DG informed the committee.

Last month, Pak gave special permission to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s VVIP flight to use its airspace for his official trip to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan.

However, Prime Minister Modi’s VVIP aircraft avoided flying over Pak. Earlier, Pak had allowed India’s former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to fly directly though Pak airspace to participate in the meeting of SCO foreign ministers in Bishkek on May 21.

India aviation industry has suffered huge losses due to the airspace ban by Pak.

On Thursday, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri told Parliament that due to the closure of Pak airspace, Air India had to spend an extra Rs 430 crore on longer routes.