Airspace closure

August 29, 2019


INDIA’S brutality in held Kashmir needs a firm response from Pakistan, one that helps highlight the Kashmiri cause around the world. By all means, this country needs to continue its moral, political and diplomatic support to the Kashmiris, especially in this dark hour when the people of the occupied region have been strangulated by Delhi, their fundamental rights trampled underfoot. However, the response to India’s provocations must be mature and calculated; emotionalism must be eschewed in favour of effective diplomacy. Yet some of the suggestions coming from the government may add to Pakistan’s isolation instead of holding India to account before the world. On Tuesday, Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry said the government was considering banning the use of Pakistani airspace for flights from India. In the aftermath of the Pulwama episode earlier this year, both countries closed their airspace, which threw the schedules of many global airlines out of gear. According to the federal aviation minister, the closure cost Pakistan over Rs8bn, though India suffered a larger loss.

The proposed airspace ban is similar to other actions already taken in this country, such as the severing of rail and bus links with India. There has also been a proposal floated in official circles to ban the import of Indian medicine and raw material. These moves, rather than censuring Delhi for its belligerence in Kashmir, will only cause suffering to ordinary people in the subcontinent. There are many divided families who will be unable to meet because of these restrictions, while a fresh airspace closure will irk international airlines using routes that cross over both India and Pakistan. Moreover, India will definitely institute reciprocal closure of its own for Pakistani aircraft. Also, can Pakistan afford the considerable losses it will suffer due to the closure? The sensible thing at this point in time is not to overreact and instead handle the situation with foresight. While a strong message must be sent to the Indian establishment that crushing the Kashmiris is definitely not acceptable, people-to-people contacts should not be severed. The window for peace must not be shut from Pakistan’s side, even while emphasising a just solution to the Kashmir crisis that is acceptable to the people of the occupied region. The hateful bigots that form the ideological backbone of the current government in Delhi would want nothing more than permanent conflict in the subcontinent. Pakistan must resist falling into this trap.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2019