As Pakistan tries to increase tensions over full integration of Jammu and Kashmir in India by abrogation of Article 370 by the Indian government, it has partially shut down its airspace for all airlines. The Pakistan airspace remained closed for several months after the Balakot strikes by India, and it was reopened only last month.
According to a NOTAM (notice to airman) issued by Pakistan on 6th August, three segments of air routes between India and Pakistan will remain closed till 5th September. All three segments are part of International routes connecting Lahore. They have cited ‘operations reasons’ as the reason for this closure. The restriction will be in place for 8 hours and 15 minutes a day, except Sundays. The NOTAM also states that alternative segment of the route is available above 30,000 feet for flights operating on the affected route, while flights
This airspace closure is much minor compared to the complete closure of airspace by Pakistan after Balakot strikes. During that time all international flights that usually fly over Pakistan had to take a different route avoiding Pakistan, resulting in a longer route which had increased cost of the airlines. Compared to that, the current order will increase the flying time by a few minutes for some flights that operate during the restricted time period.
With this decision, the flying time of around 50 flights will increase by about 10-15 minutes for Indian carriers. “The major route which we use for our long haul flights are still open and hence the impact is not much right now but we have got initial inputs that the remaining air routes will be shut. The impact will be huge as flying time for our ultra long haul flights using Pakistani airspace would increase by 2-3 hours,” said a senior Air India official.
Yesterday, a report in Times of Islamabad had reported that such a move was being anticipated after India abrogated all provisions of Article 370 and stripped Jammu and Kashmir off its special status. “Pakistan is anticipating February-like aerial aggression from the Indian side; thus, an airspace closure is deemed necessary”.
After the Balakot airstrikes where India had gone deep into Pakistan territory and flattened terror camps in Balakot with airstrikes, Pakistan had shut its airspace completely for weeks. Pakistan had in June asserted that it will open its Eastern airspace for flights to and from New Delhi only if India promises not to repeat a Balakot like operation inside Pakistan’s territory. Interestingly, while Pakistan wants India to promise that a Balakot like operation won’t be repeated, when the operation, codenamed ‘Operation Bandar’ had happened, Pakistan had lied that India had managed to hit just a few trees. It was only in July that Pakistan had re-opened its airspace for civilian flights again.
Yesterday Pakistan had downgraded diplomatic relations with India along with suspending trade relations, to which India responded today by reiterating that revocation of Article 370 is a completely internal matter of India.