Modi not to fly over Pakistan to attend Bishkek SCO summit

PM Modi’s aircraft will fly over Oman, Iran and several Central Asian countries to reach the Kyrgyz capital.

PM Modi’s aircraft will fly over Oman, Iran and several Central Asian countries to reach the Kyrgyz capital.   | Photo Credit: PTI

India has clarified that Pakistan’s airspace will not be used for the flight of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reach Kyrgyz Republic. The information came just before the Prime Minister issued a pre-departure comment that he would be holding several bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s summit in Bishkek.

“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,” said the official spokesperson to a query.

The Hindu had earlier reported that India had urged Pakistan to allow the aircraft to use the airspace of the country. Subsequently, Pakistan had agreed to grant over flight facility to the VVIP aircraft. Pakistan had extended a similar courtesy to previous External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj who attended a ministerial meeting of the SCO on May 22. Both Pakistan and India are among the members of the organisation.

Pakistan had closed its airspace for all flights from India after the IAF carried out strikes in Balakot inside Pakistan on February 26. Diplomatic sources could not clarify when exactly Pakistan would lift the air blockade for Indian flights which is forcing airlines to take long detour for most of the West-bound flights.

The route taken by Mr. Modi’s aircraft has dampened the speculation of a possible meeting between the Indian leader and his Pakistan counterpart Imran Khan. The SCO summit will be the first occasion where both the leaders will be seen together in a multilateral platform, after the weeks of high tension following the Pulwama terror attack and the Balakot airstrike.

However, there is no indication of any such bilateral meeting though Mr. Modi announced before leaving for Bishkek that he plans to “meet several leaders bilaterally”. The Ministry of External Affairs had informed that he would meet Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the summit but did not hint that a meeting with Mr. Khan was on the cards.

The flight of Mr. Modi which will be routed over the Arabian Sea and the airspace of Oman and Iran is expected to take eight to nine hours. The duration indicates the extent of the problem that air connectivity between India and Central Asia has been experiencing since Pakistan had blocked its airspace. The airlines from Central Asia have been taking up to four hours longer than normal travel duration since February 26.

PTI adds:

Goodwill gesture: Pakistan

Islamabad: Pakistan on Wednesday said it will “specially” open its airspace for the flight of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Bishkek to attend the SCO summit.

Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan said the airspace will be opened as a “goodwill gesture”.

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Printable version | Aug 14, 2020 12:49:21 PM |

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