India Criticises Pak Denial to President Kovind’s Request to Use Its Airspace

The Indian president is to visit Iceland, Switzerland and Slovenia to brief them about India's "national concerns".

Islamabad: After Pakistan refused India’s request to allow President Ram Nath Kovind to use its airspace for his flight to Iceland, India regretted the denial and commented that such an approval would have been granted routinely by “any normal country”.

Kovind will embark on a visit to Iceland, Switzerland and Slovenia from Monday during which he is expected to brief the top leadership in those countries on India’s “national concerns”, especially in view of terror incidents this year, including the Pulwama attack.

The decision to deny permission was approved by Prime Minister Imran Khan in view of the tense situation in Kashmir, Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told state broadcaster PTV on Saturday.

Later in the evening, Indian foreign ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar confirmed and criticised Pakistan’s actions.

“We regret the decision of the Government of Pakistan to deny overflight clearance for the VVIP special flight which is otherwise granted routinely by any normal country. We call upon Pakistan to recognize the futility of such unilateral actions,” he said.

Khan’s government was under pressure from the opposition and some ministers to impose on India to use its airspace after India revoked special status of Kashmir. The domestic criticism had increased after it emerged that Pakistan allowed Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s plane to cross over Pakistani airspace from New Delhi to France.

Though, so far no decision was taken to impose the blanket ban but Pakistan showed its intension by disallowing President Kovind to use its airspace.

Qureshi said New Delhi’s tough stance on Kashmir was a serious issue which he would take up with the United Nations Human Rights Council.

He noted that 34 days have elapsed since the Indian authorities imposed a crippling curfew in Kashmir before revoking the region’s special status on August 5.

Pakistan had fully closed its airspace in February after an Indian Air Force strike on a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror camp in Balakot. The country opened its airspace for all flights except for New Delhi, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur on March 27.

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On May 15, Pakistan extended its airspace ban for flights to India till May 30. It fully opened its airspace for all civilian traffic on July 16.

Pakistan has already suspended its trade with India and stopped the train and bus services in protest to India’s August 5 decision to end Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.

Tensions between India and Pakistan spiked after India abrogated provisions of Article 370 of the constitution to withdraw Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and bifurcated it into two union territories, evoking strong reactions from Pakistan.

India has categorically told the international community that the scrapping of Article 370 was an internal matter and also advised Pakistan to accept the reality.

The article was updated to include the MEA’s response.

(With inputs from PTI)