Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa on Monday said Pakistan’s decision to close its airspace after the Balakot airstrikes by India in February was “their problem”, and pointed out that the Indian Air Force had never stopped civilian traffic.

“They [Pakistan] have closed their airspace that is their problem,” ANI quoted Dhanoa as saying at a press conference in Gwalior. “Our economy is vibrant and air traffic is a very important part and you have noticed that the Air Force has never stopped our civil air traffic.”

The Air Force chief said the airspace over Srinagar had been stopped only for two to three hours on February 27. “Rest of it we did not allow tension with Pakistan to dictate our civil aviation because our economy is much bigger and much stronger than Pakistan,” he added.

On February 26, Indian Air Force jets struck a Jaish-e-Mohammad camp in Balakot in retaliation against the killing of 40 Central Reserve Force jawans in Pulwama 12 days before. The following day, Indian and Pakistani jets engaged in a dogfight across the Line of Control.

Dhanoa claimed no Pakistani aircraft had managed to cross the Line of Control that day. “We achieved our military objective,” he said. “None of them crossed the Line of Control into our territory.” The air chief marshal said that while Pakistani jets wanted to bomb Indian military bases, India had targeted terror camps in the neighbouring country.

Speaking at the Gwalior Air Base earlier in the day, Dhanoa said deploying Mirage 2000 jets and air support to ground forces turned the tide of the Kargil war, PTI reported. “Modification to the Mirage 2000 was in process and expedited, and system was brought in place for the Kargil War,” said the Air Force chief. “The integration of Litening targeting pod and laser-guided bomb system was done in a record time of 12 days.”

On the crash of an AN-32 transport aircraft that killed 13 people last week, Dhanoa said the air force has no choice but to use the plane in mountainous regions. “AN-32 aircraft will continue to fly in mountainous areas,” he said. “We do not have any replacement.” The Air Force chief added that India was in the process of acquiring more modern aircraft.