Pakistan said it will not open its airspace for Indian commercial flights until New Delhi removes fighter planes from forward bases, Dawn reported on Friday.
“The Indian government approached asking us to open the airspace,” Aviation Secretary Shahrukh Nusrat said. “We conveyed our concerns that first India must withdraw its fighter planes placed forward.”
Nusrat was responding to questions from members of the Senate Standing Committee on Aviation, who asked about profitable and loss-making routes of Pakistan International Airlines.
Pakistan closed its airspace to Indian aircraft on February 26 after the Indian Air Force’s airstrikes on a Jaish-e-Mohammad terror camp in Balakot. The country has opened only two out of 11 routes that go through southern Pakistan.
Nusrat told the committee that Indian officials had contacted Pakistan requesting it to lift restrictions on airspace. “However, Indian officials have been told that Indian airbases are still laden with fighter jets and Pakistan will not allow resumption of flight operations from India until their removal,” said Nusrat, according to The Express Tribune.
Nusrat, who is also the director general of the Civil Aviation Authority, contested India’s claims that it had opened its airspace for Pakistan. “Pakistani flights from Thailand have not been restored since the closure of the Indian airspace, Nusrat told the committee. “Pakistan International Airlines flights for Malaysia also remain suspended.”
Earlier this month, India’s Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had said that Indian airlines had suffered a loss of at least Rs 549 crore due to Pakistan’s airspace closure since February 27. Puri said that closing the airspace was a “unilateral measure” and that it was up to Islamabad to lift the ban.
The data provided by Puri to the Rajya Sabha showed that private airline SpiceJet had lost Rs 30.73 crore till June 20, IndiGo had lost Rs 25.1 crore till May 31, and GoAir Rs 2.1 crore till June 20, while Air India incurred a loss of Rs 491 crore as of July 2.