'Up to India what route it decides to use,' says FO spokesperson on Modi's trip to Bishkek

Updated June 12, 2019

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will now use a circuitous route via Oman and Iran to reach the Kyrgyzstan capital. — AFP/File
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will now use a circuitous route via Oman and Iran to reach the Kyrgyzstan capital. — AFP/File

The Foreign Office on Wednesday said that "it is up to India what route it decides to use" after New Delhi decided that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's plane would avoid Pakistani airspace on its way to Krygyzstan for a summit.

Pakistan had fully closed its airspace on Feb 26 after an Indian Air Force incursion near Balakot, but the government had last month allowed then Indian external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj to fly over the country when she was travelling to Bishkek to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Bishkek.

A senior Ministry of Foreign Affairs official in Islamabad had said earlier that they had received a formal request from the Indian prime minister to allow his aircraft to fly over Pakistani airspace to also attend the summit in Bishkek on June 13-14, and that the request was being "processed".

FO spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal tweeted that India had requested "two overflight clearances for Indian PM and EAM [external affairs minister]".

"After requisite processing, permission was granted earlier today. It is upto India what route it decides to use," he said, adding: "Pakistan also granted flight clearance to earlier Indian request for [the] EAM travel to Bishkek 21-22 May 2019."

Dr Faisal's statement came hours after the Indian external affairs ministry announced that Modi would not fly through Pakistan to attend the Bishkek summit, despite the permission granted by the Pakistani government to do so.

Bishkek and Indian capital New Delhi on the map. — Google Maps
Bishkek and Indian capital New Delhi on the map. — Google Maps

The Indian premier will now use a circuitous route via Oman and Iran to reach the Kyrgyzstan capital, the Indian external affairs ministry had said.

"The Government of India had explored two options for the route to be taken by the VVIP Aircraft to Bishkek. A decision has now been taken that the VVIP Aircraft will fly via Oman, Iran and Central Asian countries on the way to Bishkek," the ministry said in a statement reported by Indian media.

'Goodwill gesture'

Earlier today, Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan had said that Pakistani airspace would be "specially" opened for Modi's overflight as a "goodwill gesture".

"Prime Minister Imran Khan, after consulting all stakeholders, directed that the airspace be opened [for Modi]," he added.

Government sources told DawnNewsTV that despite India's announcement to not use Pakistani airspace for the flight to Bishkek, the "factual position is that even for the route mentioned, his plane will use the Pakistani airspace".

"We take the moral high ground. We gave permission [for the overflight], it is their [India's] choice from that point on," one of the sources said.

The southern route opted for by the Indian government is, in fact, one of the two that Pakistan had opened for Indian flights, they added.

The sources explained that Pakistan had opened two routes for Indian flights since March: the first for traffic from India to Europe/Central Asia and the second for traffic to India. The 'from' route is over the Arabian sea towards Karachi, Hingol, Gwadar and beyond while the 'to' route is over Karachi, Badin and into India.

Prime Minister Modi's plane will now use the Pakistani airspace from Karachi and Hingol to enter Oman and Iran via Gwadar and then Kyrgyzstan, the sources concluded.