Sunday, April 28, 2019

Indo-Pak airspace tussle spices up

New Delhi: A Sharjah-Kabul SpiceJet cargo flight is the latest trigger for an India-Pakistan airspace tussle that started after Islamabad closed its airspace to Indian aircraft in late February.
Pakistan closed its airspace after an aerial dogfight between its F-16s and Indian fighter jets that followed Indian Air Force’s February 26 strike on a terrorist training camp of the Jaish-e-Mohammad in Balakot. India, apart from a few hours on February 27 and that too only for its northern airports, did not close its airspace to Pakistani civilian aircraft.
Even a ban would have made little difference to Pakistan’s few international commercial flights because they don’t use Indian airspace. But Pakistan-registered aircraft operating non-scheduled flights were allowed to use Indian airspace before the SpiceJet incident.
That’s now changed.
Airspace over Pakistan’s western border is used mainly by flights originating in the Middle East. On April 3, a Sharjah-Kabul SpiceJet cargo flight (VT-SFB) was turned back by Pakistani air traffic controllers despite the Indian carrier having obtained prior permission from Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority.
SpiceJet sent a complaint to India’s civil aviation ministry — ET has reviewed the plaint — and the ministry forwarded it to the ministry of external affairs. And India decided to retaliate.
No permission is being granted any more by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) for non-scheduled flights by Pak-registered aircraft.
Non-scheduled flights include those by aircraft owned by individuals or companies or chartered planes or even aircraft carrying government or personnel from multilateral agencies.
“There is no written order but we are not allowing any Pakistan-registered aircraft to use the Indian airspace since the day (April 3) Islamabad did not allow an India-registered aircraft despite clearances,” said a senior DGCA official, who did not want to be identified.
27/04/19 Mihir Mishra/Economic Times