Pakistan may opt for a complete closure of its air space to India, a couple of weeks after it announced the closure of one corridor forcing international flights, mainly to western destinations, to take a longer route. The possible move for ‘complete closure’ was suggested in a meeting of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s cabinet, said Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Science and Technology, Chaudhry Fawad Hussain.
“PM is considering a complete closure of Air Space to India,” Fawad tweeted while suggesting that closure of air space was one of the many other measures on the table as Pakistan seeks to further escalate its opposition to abrogation of Article 370 that removed special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
“ …A complete ban on the use of Pakistan Land routes for Indian trade to Afghanistan was also suggested in a cabinet meeting, legal formalities for these decisions are under consideration… #Modi has started we’ll finish,” Fawad tweeted.
Chaudhry Fawad Hussain’s statement follows stinging criticism of Imran Khan government’s Kashmir policy by Pakistan’s opposition. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had slammed Prime Minister Imran Khan for his “complete failure” in handling the Kashmir issue, asserting that earlier Pakistan’s policy was how to take Srinagar from India, but now the concern is how to save Muzaffarabad, the capital of PoK.
Addressing media persons in Rawalpindi on Monday, Bilawal, the son of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, said Pakistan “lost Kashmir” due to the incompetence of the Khan government.
“Earlier, Pakistan’s policy used to be how to take Srinagar from India. However, now due to the failure of Imran Khan government, the position is how we can save Muzafarabad,” the Pakistan Peoples Party chairman had said.
Pakistan’s decision to close one of its air corridors as a retaliatory measure, after Indian Parliament divided the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories and removed the special status accorded to the region, had added a maximum of 12-minute duration to Air India’s international flights that are forced to avoid the corridor while flying to the US, Europe and the Middle East. Air India operates around 50 flights daily through Pakistani airspace.
Islamabad’s declaration of its possible move comes close on the heels of Pakistan PM Imran Khan declaring himself an “ambassador of Kashmir” in an address to the nation on Monday. Khan had also said that he will speak at the UN General Assembly on September 27 and highlight the Kashmir issue on the world stage.
Earlier in February, Pakistan had closed its airspace for three months after Indian Air Force struck Jaish-e-Mohammaed hideout in Balakot on February 26. The closure had hit travellers and airlines from Afghanistan and Central Asia the hardest. In the case of Central Asian airlines, the duration of flights from the region to New Delhi had increased by up to four hours as airlines had to fly via destinations such as Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
While Pakistan had been trying to make maximum noise on Kashmir, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on Monday told the US President Donald Trump that dispute on Kashmir was a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan, in a clear reaffirmation of New Delhi’s staunch opposition to any attempts to internationalise the matter. Pakistan’s move towards that end was defeated earlier this month in the UNSC when its demand for a formal resolution on Kashmir was defeated 4-1.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had, without naming Pakistan, also told Trump that extreme rhetoric was not conducive to maintenance of peace in the region.