India's Modi to avoid Pakistan airspace despite getting permission

An arial view of the airplane hub at the airport in Karachi, Pakistan February 3, 2017. (Reuters)
Updated 13 June 2019

India's Modi to avoid Pakistan airspace despite getting permission

  • Airlines using Indian airspace forced to take detours because they cannot fly over Pakistan since February amid rising tensions
  • Pakistan had cleared Modi’s flight to Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan to attend Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will avoid flying over Pakistan during an official trip to central Asia on Thursday, the foreign ministry said, even though Pakistan has granted overflight access.

Pakistan closed its airspace in February after a suicide attack by a Pakistan-based militant group in Indian-controlled Kashmir led to aerial bombing missions on each other’s soil and a fighter dogfight over Kashmir.

Commercial and cargo airlines using Indian airspace have been forced to take costly and time-consuming detours because they cannot fly over Pakistan.

But Pakistan had cleared Modi’s flight to Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit beginning on Thursday, Indian and Pakistan sources said.

The Indian foreign ministry said the government had considered the routes for Modi’s travel and decided he would take the longer passage to Central Asia instead of the direct route over Pakistan.

The move follows calls in local media that Modi shouldn’t be securing an exception for himself while thousands of ordinary travelers were enduring the longer travel because of the tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals.

“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 foreign ministry said.

Modi’s move also suggests there is little chance of a thaw in ties even though Pakistan said it hoped to revive talks after elections in India ended in May.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan will also be attending the SCO meeting, but Indian officials said there were no plans for a bilateral meeting between him and Modi.

Vivek Katju, a former top Indian diplomat who dealt with Pakistan ties, said in a newspaper column on Tuesday that he was disappointed the Modi government had initially sought overflight permission from Islamabad.

“Would it not have been better for government to show solidarity with common travelers, including the great number of workers who live in the Gulf countries and make significant contributions to India’s economy?” he said.

Pakistan announced last month that the airspace closure on its eastern border with India would be extended to June 14. The country lies in the middle of a vital aviation corridor.


Pakistani PM calls in army to help clean up rain-battered Karachi 

Updated 30 July 2020

Pakistani PM calls in army to help clean up rain-battered Karachi 

  • Directs National Disaster Management Authority chief to reach Karachi immediately and start cleaning up in aftermath of recent rains
  • Nearly a dozen killed as rain leaves Karachi residents wading through water amid stalled vehicles and trash flowing through the streets

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Wednesday night he had called in the Pakistani military to help in efforts to “clean up” the country’s biggest city and commercial hub of Karachi after torrential rains left nearly a dozen people dead.

Rain battered Karachi this week, leaving residents wading through waist-deep water amid stalled vehicles and trash flowing through the streets.
“I have asked the NDMA Chairman to go to Karachi immediately and start the clean up in the aftermath of the rain,” Khan said in a tweet, referring to the National Disaster Management Authority, which is run by a serving general. 
“I have asked the Pak army to also help in cleaning up the city,” the PM added. 
The provincial government in Sindh says the modernization of Karachi, including of its drainage and flood management systems, is a major goal to revitalize Pakistan’s largest city and economic powerhouse, long plagued by traffic congestion, poor road infrastructure, transport, water and electricity shortages and rampant crime. 
But politicking by local parties and wrangling between different levels of government have stalled Karachi’s growth for decades and continue to hold back development causing even minor spells of rain to leave the city paralysed.