Government asks Pakistan to reconsider its decision on ‘no airspace’: sources

Srinagar: Last week Pakistan had denied permission for airspace from Srinagar to Sharjah for flights. According to media sources, the Indian government has asked Pakistan to reconsider its decision.

Sources said the government had urged Pakistan to reconsider its decision because the flight is “in the interests of the people”. Pakistan had allowed the first four flights – on October 23, 24, 26 and 28 – to fly over its territory, but then revoked permission for a month starting October 30.

The flight in question – G8-1595, operated by Go First (formerly GoAir) – was launched October 23 by Home Minister Amit Shah during his visit to Jammu and Kashmir last month. That was Mr Shah’s first visit to J&K since he led the government’s controversial charge to scrap Article 370.

News permission was withdrawn emerged Wednesday, after Pak Foreign Office spokesperson, Asim Iftikhar Ahmed, said it may have been denied by the Civil Aviation Authority over technical details

“There are various aspects to this issue and the concerned authorities are fully seized of it,” he said, adding, “As a long outstanding dispute, it (Kashmir) remains on the agenda of the UN Security Council (UNSC) pending its resolution and final disposition in accordance with UNSC resolutions.”

Tracking service Radar24 showed the November 2 flight as having extended its route by flying over a greater part of Punjab, and over Rajasthan and Gujarat, before turning west over the Arabian Sea.

Flights on preceding days were shown as flying over Pak airspace after taking off from Srinagar.

Re-routing of flights from Srinagar to the United Arab Emirates (to ensure it doesn’t cross Pak airspace) adds over an hour of flying time, raising fuel and ticket costs.

Go First has said it plans to continue the service (on alternate days) for now.

The denial has raised concerns over the flight’s viability, raising fears it may meet the same fate as the 2009 Srinagar-Dubai service shelved due to low demand after it too was forced to take the longer route.

Former J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti was among those to criticise the government for clearing the flight without laying the groundwork; the PDP chief called Mr Shah’s flagging off a “PR stunt”.

Another ex-Chief Minister, National Conference leader Omar Abdullah, tweeted “very unfortunate”.

Last month, as Mr Shah launched the flight, he tweeted: “(hope) Pakistan had a change of heart…”

“Regarding the Srinagar-Sharjah flight announced today – has Pakistan had a change of heart and allowed flights originating from Srinagar to use its airspace? If not then this flight will die the way the Srinagar-Dubai flight died during UPA2,” he tweeted.

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