New Delhi: India has requested Pakistan through diplomatic channels to allow Go First’s Srinagar-Sharjah flight use its airspace keeping in mind the larger interest of common people who have booked the tickets on this service, government officials said on Thursday.
The development came after Pakistan on Tuesday had not allowed the Srinagar-Sharjah flight to use its airspace, forcing it to take a longer route and fly over Gujarat to reach its destination in the UAE.
Go First, previously known as GoAir, had started direct flights between Srinagar and Sharjah from October 23 and the service was inaugurated by Union Home Minister Amit Shah during his visit to the Valley last month.
According to the officials, till October 31, the Srinagar-Sharjah-Srinagar service was going through Pakistan airspace.
However, Pakistan on Tuesday did not allow the flight to pass through its airspace, and therefore, the service had to take a longer route, going over Gujarat, adding around 40 minutes to the flight time on the onward journey as well as the return journey, they said.
Longer route means higher fuel consumption, which may push the airline to increase the ticket prices or turn this non-stop service to one-stop service.
Therefore, the officials said that India has requested Pakistan through diplomatic channels to grant the overflight clearance to this flight keeping in mind the larger interest of common people who have booked the tickets on this service.
The Pakistan government is yet to give any specific reason for refusing the permission to the flight, they said.
According to the officials, the flight, which operates four times a week, did not face any issue when it used Pakistan airspace between October 23 and October 31.
Go First has not issued any statement or comment on this matter as yet.
The airline’s Srinagar-Sharjah-Srinagar service is the first service between Jammu and Kashmir and the UAE after 11 years. Air India Express had started a Srinagar-Dubai flight in February 2009 but it was discontinued after some time due to low demand.
Reacting to Pakistan’s action, former J&K chief minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah on Wednesday had tweeted “very unfortunate. Pakistan did the same thing with the Air India Express flight from Srinagar to Dubai in 2009-2010. I had hoped that @GoFirstairways being permitted to overfly Pak airspace was indicative of a thaw in relations but alas that wasn’t to be”.
Blaming the Centre, PDP chief and former J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti in a tweet had said, “Puzzling that GoI didn’t even bother securing permission from Pakistan to use its airspace for international flights from Srinagar. Only a PR extravaganza without any groundwork.”
Inaugurating the flight, Shah had said that the commencement of Srinagar-Sharjah services would boost tourism.
“There are many people from Srinagar and Jammu who are settled in the Gulf countries. There are many tourists who want to come from the Gulf countries to Jammu and Kashmir. The tourism of J-K is going to get a big boost with the commencement of Srinagar-Sharjah flights,” he added.
The officials said the Srinagar-Sharjah flight takes around 3 hours and 40 minutes, while the return flight takes approximately 3 hours to reach the capital of Jammu and Kashmir if Pakistan airspace is used.
With Islamabad refusing to allow the flight through its airspace, it adds around 40 minutes time during the onward journey as well as during the return journey, raising fuel and ticket costs, they mentioned.
The Pakistan government, however, had allowed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s special flight to Italy to use its airspace on Friday to attend the G20 summit. His return flight from Italy was also allowed to use the Pakistan airspace on Wednesday, the officials added.
Pakistan Responds, Says Permission For Such Flights Denied
Pakistan said on Thursday that it has denied an Indian airline to use its airspace for operating flights from Kashmir to the United Arab Emirates.
Pakistan on Tuesday did not allow the Srinagar-Sharjah flight of Go First, previously known as GoAir, to use its airspace, forcing it to take a longer route and fly over Gujarat to reach its destination in the UAE, according to officials in India.
The Foreign Office spokesman, Asim Iftikhar Ahmed, was asked at the weekly media briefing here on Thursday whether Foreign Office was taken on board when Pakistan permitted these (Srinagar-Sharjah) flights and when these permissions were cancelled’.
“The over-flight permission for such flights has been denied,” he said, adding that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) would have technical details.
“There are various aspects to this issue and the concerned authorities are fully seized of it,” he said.
“As a long outstanding dispute, it (Kashmir) remains on the agenda of the UN Security Council pending its resolution and final disposition in accordance with UNSC resolutions,” he said.
To another question about the Indian Home Minister during his visit to Kashmir announcing Rs 500 billion worth of development plan, he said the reported investment and development projects were an effort by India to divert international attention from its alleged human rights violations.
When asked about the UAE’s planned investment in infrastructure and other projects in Kashmir, the spokesman said, we continue to sensitise our friends and remain in touch with them .
He said that Pakistan values the significance of the Kartarpur corridor and “remain strongly committed to its functioning, and supports its early reopening. We hope India will respond positively.”
The movement of pilgrims to Pakistan through the Kartarpur corridor has been suspended since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the neighbouring country banned all travel from India citing the surge in cases in April this year.
Ties between India and Pakistan nose-dived after a militant attack on the Pathankot Air Force base in 2016 by miltiant groups based in the neighbouring country. Subsequent attacks, including one on an Indian Army camp in Uri, further deteriorated the relationship.
The relationship dipped further after India’s war planes carried out airstrikes at Jaish-e-Mohammed training camp deep inside Pakistan on February 26, 2019 in response to the Pulwama attack in which 40 CRPF jawans were killed.
The relations deteriorated after India announced withdrawing special powers of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcation of the state into two union territories in August, 2019.
India has categorically told the international community that the scrapping of Article 370 was its internal matter. It also advised Pakistan to accept the reality and stop all anti-India propaganda. (PTI)