India granted permission for Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s aircraft to fly over the country for his visit to Male and Colombo, a gesture that would be reciprocated by Pakistan for External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj a fortnight later, despite a ban by Pakistan on the use of its airspace for flights approaching from its eastern side after traversing India.
Both the Indian and the Pakistani officials have confirmed that Pakistan requested for a passage for Mr. Qureshi’s flight to Male on May 2 and for his return flight from Colombo on May 4. Mr. Qureshi, however, cancelled the trip following the bomb attacks in Sri Lanka.
“We issued clearance for Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s aircraft transit in one day. That they chose to cancel the trip is another matter. Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), on the other hand, took 10 days to issue the clearance for Ms. Swaraj’s flight. They have not reciprocated in equal measure the goodwill that we extended,” according to a Defence source.
Two weeks later, Pakistan allowed Ms. Swaraj’s aircraft for the SCO meet in Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bishkek on May 22 and 23.
The give-and-take unfolded in the middle of a heated election season, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP leaders had repeatedly raked up the Balakot air strike.
Pakistan closed its airspace after the IAF strike on a Jaish-e-Mohammed terror camp in Balakot on February 26.