New Delhi, Jul 17: Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa on Wednesday said that the opening of airspace by Pakistan is a good thing, adding that the neighbouring country should have done it a long time back.
“Pakistan opened its airspace yesterday. It is a good thing. They should have opened it a long time back,” he said.
Dhanoa, however, refused to comment on 26/11 Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed’s arrest in Pakistan.
“I will only comment on the airspace,” the Air Force chief said, reiterating that it is a welcome move.
For the first time since February’s Balakot strike, Pakistan in the wee hours of Tuesday morning had opened its airspace for all civilian traffic, as per the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority.
In a huge relief for airlines, all restrictions on airspaces of India and Pakistan were lifted after the cancellation of notices to airmen (NOTAMs) by both countries, restoring normal air traffic.
India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation, in a tweet, termed the move a “great news” and a “big relief to air passengers”.
Pakistan had fully shut its airspace on the eastern border with India after the Indian Air Force carried out aerial airstrikes on a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror camp in Balakot on February 26.
The strikes on the militant camp were in response to the JeM-perpetrated militant attack in Pulwama, Jammu and Kashmir, on February 14, in which 40 CRPF personnel lost their lives.
In mid-April, Pakistan opened one of its 11 air routes for west-bound flights from India — airlines like Air India and Turkish Airlines have started using it.
In March, the neighbouring country partially opened its airspace but did not allow Indian flights to fly over its airspace.
Since then, foreign carriers using Indian airspace have been forced to take costly detours because they cannot fly over Pakistan. The closure mainly affects flights from Europe to Southeast Asia.
Pakistan lies in the middle of a vital aviation corridor whereby the airspace restrictions, which have been continuing since a long time, impacts hundreds of commercial flights per day, extending flight timings for passengers, as well as fuel costs for airlines.