By Sajjad Hussain
PAKISTAN on Saturday refused India’s request to allow President Ram Nath Kovind to use its airspace for his flight to Iceland. Kovind will embark on a visit to Iceland, Switzerland and Slovenia from Monday during which he is expected to brief the top leadership in those countries on India’s “national concerns”, especially in view of terror incidents this year, including the Pulwama attack.
The decision was approved by Prime Minister Imran Khan in view of the tense situation in Kashmir, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told State broadcaster PTV. In New Delhi, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar regretted Pakistan’s decision to not allow the President to use its airspace for his flight to Iceland. “We regret the decision of Pak Government to deny overflight clearance for a VVIP special flight which is otherwise granted routinely by any normal country. We call on Pak to recognise futility of such unilateral actions,” Kumar said.
Khan’s Government has been under pressure from the Opposition and some Ministers to impose ban on India to use its airspace after India revoked Special Status of Kashmir. Though, so far no decision has been taken to impose the blanket ban, Pakistan showed its intention by disallowing President Kovind to use its airspace. Qureshi said New Delhi’s action in Kashmir was a serious issue which he would take up with the United Nations Human Rights Council. Pakistan had fully closed its airspace in February after an Indian Air Force strike on a Jaish-e-Mohammed terror camp in Balakot. The country opened its airspace for all flights except for New Delhi, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur on March 27.