- Islamabad denied President permission to use its airspace for flying
- Pakistan attributed reason for its decision to strain in bilateral issues
- President will go on tri-nation trip to Iceland, Switzerland and Slovenia
Islamabad has denied President Ram Nath Kovind permission to use its airspace for flying to Iceland amid tensions with New Delhi after it scrapped Jammu and Kashmir's special status last month, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on Saturday.
According to news agency AFP, Mr Qureshi attributed the reason for its decision to India's "recent behaviour". India, however, contends that its decision on Jammu and Kashmir was a strictly internal matter that Pakistan has no right to question.
The government, reacting to Islamabad's move, said it "calls upon Pakistan to recognize the futility of such unilateral actions."
"We regret the decision of the Government of Pakistan to deny overflight clearance for the VVIP special flight which is otherwise granted routinely by any normal country. We call upon Pakistan to recognize the futility of such unilateral actions," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.
President Ram Nath Kovind will embark on a tri-nation trip to Iceland, Switzerland and Slovenia from Monday, during which he is expected to brief the top leadership of those countries on issues such as cross-border terrorism.
According to Mr Qureshi, the unusual decision to deny President Kovind permission to use the country's airspace was approved by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan. The two countries have been at loggerheads on several issues, including cross-border terrorism, the recent move on Kashmir, and New Delhi's decision to challenge captured Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav's death sentence in the International Court of Justice.
Pakistan had closed its airspace to Indian traffic after an aerial dogfight following the Pulwama terror attack in February ratcheted up tensions between Islamabad and New Delhi. However, it reopened its skies in July, ending months of restrictions that affected major international air routes.
President Kovind will first arrive in Iceland on September 9, where he will hold talks with Iceland President Gudni Johannesson and Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir. He will then visit Switzerland from September 11 to 15, spending his days meeting Swiss President Ueli Maurer and members of the Swiss cabinet.
Ahead of President Kovind's visit, the Swiss government said in a release that the Kashmir situation will be among the issues likely to be discussed during his interactions with the country's leadership.
(With inputs from PTI and AFP)