Pakistan turns down India’s request to use airspace

KARACHI, Pakistan

Pakistan on Wednesday turned down a request from longtime rival India, seeking permission to use the former’s airspace for a flight of the Indian premier, Islamabad’s top diplomat said.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said in a video message that India requested to access Pakistani airspace for Narendra Modi’s flight to Germany on Sept. 20 and for his return home on Sept. 28.

However, Islamabad denied New Delhi’s request, Qureshi said, elaborating on the issue: “Keeping the situation in occupied Jammu and Kashmir, and India’s attitude, we have decided not to allow him to use our airspace.”

The decision, he said, was conveyed to the Indian High Commission.

The move came less than two weeks after Islamabad denied a similar request to use its airspace for Indian President Ram Nath Kovind’s flight to Iceland.

Pakistan had kept its airspace shut for Indian commercial flights for over a month in February this year following an air combat between the two air forces, in which two Indian jets were shot down, and a pilot was captured.

There is fresh pressure on Pakistan’s premier Imran Khan from political and religious parties to continue with this policy.

The shut down reportedly inflicted huge losses on Indian airlines.

Already strained relations between the two South Asian nuclear rivals have further plummeted after India scrapped the special provisions to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The state has been under a near-complete lockdown since Aug. 5.

Several rights groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have repeatedly called on India to lift restrictions and release political detainees.

Indian authorities, however, claim that daytime restrictions have been lifted in 90% of the region.

From 1954 until Aug. 5, 2019, Jammu and Kashmir enjoyed special status under the Indian constitution, which allowed it to enact its own laws.

The provisions also protected the region’s citizenship law, which barred outsiders from settling in and owning land in the territory.

India and Pakistan both hold Kashmir in parts and claim it in full. China also controls part of the contested region, but it is India and Pakistan who have fought two wars over Kashmir.
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