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5 months after Balakot strike, Pakistan reopens its airspace for all civilian traffic: Report

Air India, which operates 33 weekly services to the US and 66 to Europe, had curtailed operations due to the airspace closure.

SNS | New Delhi |

Pakistan opened its airspace for all civilian traffic on Tuesday morning, removing the ban on Indian flights that were not allowed to use a majority of its airspace since the Balakot air strikes in February, according to sources by PTI.

Air India was the major victim as several international flights to and from India were affected since the Indian Air Force (IAF) strikes on a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror camp in Balakot on February 26.

Flights from across the world were either cancelled or rerouted, since the closure was announced on February 27. Pakistan partially opened its airspace, only for the flights bound for the country.

Air India, which operates 33 weekly services to the US and 66 to Europe, had curtailed operations due to the airspace closure. It had clubbed together several US and Europe bound flights.

According to reports, around 400 flights were affected a day, with the national carrier being the worst hit. The airline had to reschedule several flights to Europe and the US.

Flights to the US and Europe were diverted over Mumbai and then northwards over the Arabian Sea through the United Arab Emirates (UAE) airspace. The new technical stops on the route were Sharjah in the UAE, and Vienna in Austria. The Delhi-Washington flight had a stopover at Mumbai.

The flights from the US have been taking a longer route, which extended their duration on the already long-haul journeys.

The move comes a week ahead of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to the US, where he is expected to seek President Donald Trump’s help to resolve the longstanding Kashmir issue with India.

Senior officials at the Foreign Ministry told The Nation newspaper on Sunday that the agenda was being worked out for the July 22 meeting at the White House.

“The Prime Minister will definitely take up the Kashmir issue with the US President and seek his help for the resolution of the dispute with India,” said one official.

Earlier last month, Pakistan had decided in principle to let Prime Minister Narendra Modi fly over its airspace to Bishkek for the SCO Summit.

According to reports, India had requested Pakistan to allow the use of their airspace for PM Modi’s special flight.

However, in a change of plan, India chose to avoid Pakistan’s airspace and charted the PM’s flight via Oman, Iran and Central Asian countries.