PM Narendra Modi will not fly over Pakistani airspace on his way to Bishkek, where he has to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit on June 13-14, despite the approval by the Pakistani government.
The Indian PM will now use a circuitous route via Oman and Iran to reach the Kyrgyzstan capital, the Indian external affairs ministry said on Wednesday.
“The Government of India had explored two options for the route to be taken by the VVIP Aircraft to Bishkek. A decision has now been taken that the VVIP Aircraft will fly via Oman, Iran and Central Asian countries on the way to Bishkek,” the ministry said in a statement reported by Indian media.
It emerged after Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan said the Pakistani airspace will be “specially” opened for Modi’s overflight to Bishkek as a “goodwill gesture”.
He said the Aviation Division had received a request from the Indian High Commission in Islamabad seeking permission for Modi’s plane to overfly Pakistan. “Prime Minister Imran Khan after consulting all stakeholders directed that the airspace be opened [for Modi],” he added.
Government sources told DawnNewsTV that despite India’s announcement to not use Pakistani airspace for the flight to Bishkek, the “factual position is that even for the route mentioned, his plane will use the Pakistani airspace”.
“We take the moral high ground. We gave permission [for the overflight], it is their [India’s] choice from that point on,” one of the sources said.
The southern route opted for by the Indian government is, in fact, one of the two that Pakistan had opened for Indian flights, they added.
The sources explained that Pakistan had opened two routes for Indian flights since March: the first for traffic from India to Europe/Central Asia and the second for traffic to India. The ‘from’ route is over the Arabian sea towards Karachi, Hingol, Gwadar and beyond while the ‘to’ route is over Karachi, Badin and into India.
Prime Minister Modi’s plane will now use the Pakistani airspace from Karachi and Hingol to enter Oman and Iran via Gwadar and then Kyrgyzstan, the sources concluded.
Pakistan had fully closed its airspace on Feb 26 after an Indian Air Force incursion near Balakot, but the government had last month allowed then Indian external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj to fly over the country when she was travelling to Bishkek to attend the SCO meeting.