Narendra Modi won't fly over Pakistan, government says

The right for passenger aircraft to fly over another country is the first freedom of the International Civil Aviation Organisation

By The Telegraph in New Delhi
  • Published 12.06.19, 2:48 PM
  • Updated 13.06.19, 11:40 AM
  • 2 mins read
  •  
Prime Minister Narendra Modi PTI file photo

The government has announced that Narendra Modi will fly over Oman and Iran, not over Pakistan's airspace, to reach Bishkek for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

Pakistan had earlier said it would allow the INdian Prime Minister's plane to fly over its airspace, although Delhi had refused to confirm or deny if it had made any request to Islamabad to fly over Pakistani territory, which is partially blocked to Indian flights. 

The Shanghai Cooperation Council (SCO) meeting is on June 13. That Modi would fly over Oman and Iran was clarified by Raveesh Kumar, the external affairs ministry spokesperson in response to journalists' queries. He said the government had explored two routes and reached this decision, but did not specify which was the second route. 

The two countries had banned the use of their territory for each other's aircraft after the Balakot aerial strike on February 26 by the Indian Air Force. 

Though India lifted the air restrictions on May 31, Pakistan is yet to reciprocate fully, hence New Delhi’s request for a right to fly. There are two southern routes over Pakistan that civilian flights can take, but all routes have not been opened.

The continued air restriction by Pakistan, now extended till June 14, can also be seen as a case of non-compliance to one of the five fundamental “air freedoms” recognised by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

Rajeev Dogra, a former Indian consul-general to Karachi, said that what should have been a routine affair has been puffed up into some act of generosity by Pakistan that was “granted” to India.

“In normal bilateral terms, even including Pakistan, no one grants permission to another country to let aircraft or special aircraft fly over its territory. Flight clearance is given, whether it is normal flights or flights carrying ministers or in this case flight carrying a Prime Minister. So, it is not a favour Pakistan is doing to India by ‘granting’ permission to overfly,” he told this website.

“The International Civil Aviation Authority, which is based in Canada, has five air freedoms. The first of these is the freedom of flight for civilian usage, whether it's a passenger flight or a ministerial flight. That is the first freedom recognised internationally. So, what Pakistan is doing is behaving like an abnormal country because normal countries don’t close their airspace to civilian flights. Pakistan is not in a state of war with any country, including India,” he added.

The ICAO describes the first freedom as “the right or privilege, in respect of scheduled international air services, granted by one State to another State or States to fly across its territory without landing (also known as a First Freedom Right).”

Dogra said that though such rights can be waived in situations of a state of belligerence between two countries, the continued ban of airspace for Indian use by Pakistan is incorrect.

India had earlier also made a similar request to Pakistan for then external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj when she had to fly to the SCO in Bishkek. 

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