Pak Denies Use of Airspace for Srinagar-Sharjah Flights

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Unfortunate, Says Omar; Mehbooba Calls Not Seeking Prior Pak Permission 'Puzzling'

New Delhi: Pakistan has denied use of its airspace for flights from Kashmir capital Srinagar to Sharjah in the UAE, which resumed after 11 years last month.

According to officials, Pakistan's refusal on Tuesday forced the Go First's Srinagar-Sharjah flight to take a longer route and fly over Gujarat to reach its destination in the UAE.

Go First, previously known as GoAir, had started direct flights between Srinagar and Sharjah from October 23 and the service was inaugurated by Union Home Minister Amit Shah during his visit to the Valley last month.

According to officials, till October 31, the flight was going through Pakistan airspace.

However, Pakistan on Tuesday did not allow the flight to pass through its airspace, and therefore, the service had to take a longer route, going over Gujarat, adding around 40 minutes to the flight time, they said.

There were no specific reasons given by the Pakistan government as yet for refusing the permission to the flight, officials said.

Officials said the flight, which operates four times a week, did not face any issue when it used Pakistan airspace between October 23 and October 31.

There was no immediate statement or comment from Go First on the matter.

This is the first service between Jammu and Kashmir and the UAE after 11 years. Air India Express had started a Srinagar-Dubai flight in February 2009.

At the time, Pakistan had similarly denied access to its airspace, making the flight take a longer route.The flight became more expensive and less feasible for travelers, which eventually reduced demand and the service was halted.

The Srinagar-Sharjah flight duration is around 3 hours if the Pakistan airspace is used, however, with Islamabad refusing to allow the flight through its airspace, it will be nearly an hour longer as planes will have to fly to Sharjah via Udaipur and Ahmedabad and overfly Oman.

The passengers will also have to spend more money as the journey is going to be more expensive, media reports said.

ANI quoting an unnamed government source reported that the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Ministry of External Affairs, and the Home Ministry were looking into the matter.

Modi Used Pakistan Airspace

Interestingly Pakistan had allowed Prime Minister Narendra Modi's VVIP flight to use its airspace when he recently flew to Europe for the G20 and the COP26 summits.Modi's flight was also allowed access when he flew to the US in September.

Earlier this year, Pakistan PM Imran Khan's flight was allowed to use the Indian airspace for his Sri Lanka visit.

Reacting to Pakistan's action, former J&K chief minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah tweeted "very unfortunate. Pakistan did the same thing with the Air India Express flight from Srinagar to Dubai in 2009-2010. I had hoped that @GoFirstairways being permitted to overfly Pak airspace was indicative of a thaw in relations but alas that wasn't to be."

Blaming the Centre, PDP chief and former J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti tweeted "puzzling that GoI didn't even bother securing permission from Pakistan to use its airspace for international flights from Srinagar. Only PR extravaganza without any groundwork."

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