India allows use of airspace by Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s special aircraft
- India’s decision to allow the special flight to use its airspace was in marked contrast to Pakistan’s actions in 2019, when Islamabad denied permission for the use of Pakistani airspace by three Indian VVIP flights.
India allowed Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s special aircraft to use the country’s airspace while flying to Sri Lanka on Tuesday, people familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity.
Khan flew to Sri Lanka in a Pakistan Air Force jet for a two-day visit. This is Khan’s maiden visit to the island nation after becoming prime minister in 2018 and he was accompanied by foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.
After leaving Pakistani airspace, the jet flew along India’s coastline and over the Lakshadweep archipelago before landing in Colombo. Pakistan’s request for the special flight to use Indian airspace was made more than a week ago and the permission was granted on Monday, the people cited above said on condition of anonymity.
India’s decision to allow the special flight to use its airspace was in marked contrast to Pakistan’s actions in 2019, when Islamabad denied permission for the use of Pakistani airspace by three Indian VVIP flights. At the time, ties between the two sides were at a low following the standoff triggered by the Pulwama suicide attack and the scrapping of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.
In September 2019, Pakistan did not permit the use of its airspace by a special flight carrying President Ram Nath Kovind to Europe on an official visit, and another flight in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi travelled to the US to attend the UN General Assembly. Pakistani also did not allow the use of its airspace by another VVIP flight during Modi’s visit to Saudi Arabia in October 2019.
India subsequently took up the issue with the International Civil Aviation Organization, the UN’s aviation body, which sought a clarification from Pakistan.
Khan, the first head of government to visit Sri Lanka after the Covid-19 outbreak, is set to hold talks with his counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and foreign minister Dinesh Gunawardena and address a business and investment forum. The two countries are also expected to sign several agreements during the visit.
However, the Sri Lankan side cancelled an address to the Parliament by Khan over concerns that he could raise the Kashmir issue. The Pakistani side had made a request for an address to the Parliament by Khan.