India on Wednesday reopened nine of the airports it had shut down following Pakistan’s violation of Indian airspace, The Hindu reported. Pakistani F-16 jets entered Indian airspace in retaliation for Indian Air Force jets bombing a Jaish-e-Mohammed terror camp in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Tuesday.
Subsequently, India shut down airports in Leh, Jammu, Srinagar, Shimla, Dharamshala, Kullu, Ludhiana, Adampur, Bhatinda, Pathankot, Chandigarh, Amritsar and Dehradun for civilian traffic. However, Airports Authority of India chief Guruprasad Mohapatra told The Hindu late in the afternoon that the closure has been lifted and nine airports will reopen.
All international flights exiting Indian airspace north of Mumbai have been re-routed through West Asia. The entire airspace north of Delhi has also been vacated, PTI reported quoting sources. An Air India official said that the airline has decided to avoid flying international airlines over Pakistani airspace.
“Due to operational reasons the airspace at Amritsar has been closed for now,” Amritsar airport director AP Acharya had told ANI earlier in the day. “No commercial flights are coming to Amritsar, there is no base here, so flights are not even taking off from here.”
The Ministry of Civil Aviation said it was following the guidelines issued by the Indian Air Force. Speaking to the media, Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha said he did not know how many flights have been impacted by the temporary suspension of air operations, PTI reported. “We are following the instructions of the air force,” he added.
Meanwhile, Pakistan has shut down domestic and international flights operating from Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad, Sialkot and Islamabad airports, ANI reported.
The agency also cited sources as saying that international flights that transit between India and Pakistan are either returning to their origin or seeking alternative routes.
Several airlines suspended flights to Pakistan on Wednesday after it closed its air space following tensions with India, Reuters reported. Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority tweeted on Wednesday evening that Pakistani airspace has partially restored, with Karachi International Airport now open.
Emirates, Qatar Airways, Etihad, flydubai, Gulf Air and SriLankan Airlines suspended services to Pakistan and flight tracking portals showed Singapore Airlines, British Airways and others were forced to reroute flights. Online portal Flightradar24 said international airlines that usually transit between Indian and Pakistani airspace were forced to reroute, including flights by Singapore Airlines, Finnair, British Airways, Aeroflot, and Air India.
Six flights operated by Singapore Airlines and its low-cost carrier Scoot were cancelled or rerouted on Wednesday. Of the six, three were Singapore Airlines flights headed to Europe from Singapore.
Reports said that Pakistani jets entered the border areas of Nowshera sector in Jammu and Kashmir’s Rajouri district on Wednesday morning, and dropped bombs. However, one of the three F-16s was shot down in Nowshera’s Lam Valley, three kilometres into Pakistani territory, India said.
Pakistan, on the other hand, had claimed that it shot down two Indian aircraft and arrested an Indian pilot. The Indian government had said the pilot of MiG 21 is “missing in action”. “Pakistan has claimed that he is in their custody. We are ascertaining the facts,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said at a press conference.
Hours later, Pakistan armed forces spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor clarified that its Air Force had detained only one Indian Air Force pilot and identified him as Wing Commander Abhinandan. Ghafoor said the Indian pilot was being treated in accordance with military ethics.
Separately, an Indian fighter plane has crashed in Budgam, but the cause of the crash is speculated to be technical failure.