Why Did Pakistan Open Its Airspace for India? Goodwill Gesture or Move To Save Ailing Economy?

By Siddhi Gaharwar

  • Although Pakistan’s decision to open up its airspace for civil traffic must have come as big relief to the Indian airlines that suffered huge losses because of the airspace closure by the north-western neighbour, it also is undeniably true that the Imran Khan government is already reeling under huge economic losses, worsened by the airspace closure and ensuing mounting expenses.
  • Pakistan on Monday night opened its airspace for all type of civil traffic, thereby lifting a ban on Indian flights that were not allowed to use most of its airspace following the Balakot airstrikes in February.
  • Late on Monday night, the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority issued a notice to airmen NOTAM, stating “with immediate effect Pakistan airspace is open for all type of civil traffic on published ATS (air traffic service) routes”.
  • The decision of the Imran Khan-government has been welcomed across the board. The decision, however, has come after the Pakistani economy too suffered huge losses post the closure. Pakistan is already suffering poor financial conditions; that was further worsened by the closure of the airspace which hit not just the Indian aviation companies but Pakistan’s aviation sector as well.

Why Pakistan opened its airspace ?

  • Cash-Strapped Pakistan’s decision was not just a “goodwill gesture” but also a move to save its feeble economy as India was not the only one to bear the brunt of the airspace closure. Pakistan too faced heavy losses because of the decision, which it had taken after the Balakot airstrikes.
  • Pakistan had lost nearly Rs 688 crore because of the closure of its airspace. The decision also took a heavy toll on operations of nearly 400 flights global per day (flying over both India and/or Pakistan) apart from resulting in increased operational expenses, fuel costs, and maintenance costs.
  • Besides these losses, Pakistan International Airlines also faced a loss of $460,000 a day due to the suspension of flights to foreign destinations.
  • Pakistan has been facing balance of payment crisis. Recently, the International Monetary Fund approved a USD-6-billion loan to the cash-strapped country.

Indian flights affected badly due to airspace closure

  • India faced a total loss of nearly Rs 550 crore and spent extra Rs 430 crore for route diversion due to the closure of the Pakistan airspace.
  • According to data presented by Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri in the Rajya Sabha on July 3, Air India lost Rs 491 crore till July 2 due to the closure of the Pakistani airspace, while SpiceJet, IndiGo and GoAir lost Rs 30.73 crore, Rs 25.1 crore and Rs 2.1 crore, respectively.
  • Air India incurred an additional operating cost of about Rs 13 lakhs per day due to re-routing of flights as the national carrier had to take a longer route to circumvent the Pakistan airspace that it had then been banned from flying over.

Pakistan’s flip-flop move

  • The decision to open up the airspace comes days after Pakistan set a precondition for opening its airspace for commercial flights from New Delhi.
  • Last week, Pakistan refused to open its airspace for commercial flights from New Delhi, asking India to first remove its fighter jets from the forward bases.
  • Pakistan Aviation Secretary Shahrukh Nusrat, while responding to a parliamentary committee today, said that Indian government approached them asking to open the airspace but the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) categorically told them to first remove its fighter jets from the forward bases.
  • There is, however, no indication or official word from any quarters about India having acceded to any such demand by Pakistan.

Why India airlines were banned to use Pakistan airspace?

  • Pakistan had closed its airspace on February 26 after the Indian Air Force (IAF) fighter jets struck a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist training camp in Balakot following the Pulwama terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The neighbouring country, however, later opened two southern routes, of the total 11 that it had shut off.

Jai Hind

Source- TOI