Pakistan airspace closure hits India, Afghan
The closure of Pakistani airspace has hit air travel between India and Afghanistan, with the number of flights being curtailed and the “air corridor” for freight being suspended, Afghan chargé d’affaires Tahir Qadiry said on Thursday.
The number of flights has been reduced from five a day to just two, and India’s SpiceJet and Air India have stopped flights to Kabul since Pakistan closed its airspace to most flights originating in or transiting through India following tensions that erupted after a suicide attack in south Kashmir’s Pulwama that killed 40 Central Reserve Police Force troopers in February.
The Pakistani restrictions are in force till June 28 and Islamabad has given no indication that they will be lifted after that.
“This is affecting not only Afghanistan, and it is a bit hard to get to India. A flight from Delhi to Kabul that used to take one-and-a-half hours now takes five hours,” Qadiry, a political appointee, said at his first interaction with the Indian media after taking charge last week.
The air corridor, which was established with Indian assistance to ferry goods such as dry fruits and other products from key Afghan cities to markets such as Delhi and Mumbai, has been suspended, other officials said.
Referring to the ongoing US-Taliban talks to end the war in Afghanistan, Qadiry said the government in Kabul had framed a roadmap with “red lines” on the way forward after extensive consultations with members of civil society, academics and human rights activists.
On the Afghan government being kept out of the negotiations with the Taliban, Qadiry said this was why Kabul wanted the world community to support a coalition for all discussions through a process that is Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled.
The “red lines” included an insistence that any solution must be in line with the Afghan Constitution and retain the gains made in fields such as human rights over the past 18 years, he said.