Amid heightened tensions between India and Islamabad after the abrogation of Article 370, a Kabul-bound SpiceJet aircraft from New Delhi was reportedly intercepted by Pakistan Air Force’s fighter jets and escorted until it entered Afghan airspace, last month.
According to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) officials quoted by NDTV, there was confusion over the “call-sign” assigned to the Boeing 737 aircraft when it entered Pakistani airspace prompting the interception.
The incident occurred on September 23 when SG-21 flight took off from Delhi to Kabul with at least 120 passengers on board.
According to an ANI report, Pakistan Air Force’s F-16 fighter jets intercepted the SpiceJet aircraft and signalled the pilots to lower its altitude and report to them with the flight details.
Once the SpiceJet pilots identified themselves as a commercial airliner, the PAF fighters allowed it to continue its flight and escorted it till the flight entered Afghan airspace.
SpiceJet has not commented on the incident so far.
Pakistan had on July 16 opened its airspace for all civilian traffic, removing the ban on Indian flights that were not allowed to use a majority of its airspace since the Balakot airstrikes in February.
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.
Then again, days after the revocation of Article 370, Pakistan closed its airspace partially, hours after it decided to downgrade diplomatic relations with India.
Three out of 11 routes between India and Pakistan were reportedly closed.
Following this, on September 7, Pakistan denied President Ram Nath Kovind the permission to use its airspace to travel to Iceland.
Later on, Pakistan also denied Prime Minister Narendra Modi the permission to use its airspace to travel to New York.
The Ministry of External Affairs regretted the decision of the Government of Pakistan to deny overflight clearance for the VVIP special flight for a second time in two weeks, which is otherwise granted routinely by any normal country.
Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson, Raveesh Kumar in a press briefing said that Pakistan should reflect upon its decision to deviate from well established international practice, as well as reconsider its old habit of misrepresenting the reasons for taking unilateral action.