Prime Minister Narendra Modi's aircraft won't fly over Pakistan on its way to Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan for regional meet SCO that starts tomorrow, the foreign ministry said today. This is widely seen as a snub to Pakistan days after reports suggested its government had "decided in principle" to allow PM Modi's plane to fly over its airspace.
In response to questions on the route the Prime Minister would take, a foreign ministry spokesperson said: "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."
However, news agency PTI quoted Pakistan Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan as saying that they are still willing to open Pakistani airspace for PM Modi's overflight to Bishkek as a "goodwill gesture".
Pakistan had closed its airspace on February 26 after Indian Air Force (IAF) planes bombed a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror camp in Balakot. Since then, it has only opened two of 11 routes, both through southern Pakistan.
News agency Press Trust of India had reported that India had requested Pakistan to let PM Modi's aircraft fly over its airspace on its way to Bishkek for the two-day SCO or Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meet.
Pakistan had decided to allow it, PTI reported on Monday, quoting an unnamed official as saying that the Imran Khan government had "approved in principle" the Indian government's request to let PM Modi's aircraft fly over the Pakistani airspace.
"The Indian government will be conveyed about the decision once the procedural formalities are completed. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will also be directed to notify the airmen subsequently," the official said, according to PTI. The official was also quoted as saying that Pakistan "was hopeful that India would respond to its offer for peace dialogue".
Foreign ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar says no bilateral meeting has been arranged between PM Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan, who will also attend the meet.
Pakistan had given special permission to Sushma Swaraj, who was foreign minister in the previous Modi government, to fly directly through the Pakistani airspace to attend the SCO Foreign Ministers'' meet in Bishkek on May 21.
Apart from two routes, Pakistan's airspace remains closed for commercial airliners.
The Indian Air Force announced on May 31 that all temporary restrictions on the Indian airspace after the Balakot airstrike had been removed. However, it is unlikely to benefit any commercial airliners unless Pakistan reciprocates and opens its complete airspace.
International operations of Air India and IndiGo have been affected by the closure of Pakistani airspace.
Pakistan extended its partial airspace ban on eastern border with India until June 14.