Tribune News Service
New Delhi, June 12
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will not fly over Pakistani airspace on way to Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, to attend a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said on Wednesday.
“The government 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,” MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.
Critics have said the reports of the government seeking special permission from Islamabad to fly over Pakistan pointed to inconsistencies in its foreign policy of isolating the country. Pakistan has closed the airspace from India after it apprehended further attacks from the Indian Air Force, some of which has been in forward deployment after the Balakot attacks.
As a result, all flights that used to fly over Pakistan are forced to make a detour that adds several hours to the flight time. Pakistan first made an exception for then Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj who was allowed to fly over Pakistan to Bishkek to attend a preparatory meeting to the summit, which will be attended by PM Modi.
A report from Islamabad stating that Pakistan has also given “in-principle” permission to the VVIP flight led to criticism on the social media. The MEA, which had declined comment till Monday, said the government had explored the option of two air corridors and the PM would now fly over Oman, Iran and several Central Asian countries to reach Bishkek.
Modi has a packed schedule in Bishkek and officials were hoping he would be able to accommodate more bilateral meetings if he had more time available on the margins of the SCO summit. He is already slated to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Besides, he will also be in discussion with the Kyrgyz side. There are reports of other world leaders having requested for bilaterals with Modi.