Indian airlines resume flight operations over Pakistan

Closed since the Balakot strike, Pakistan reopened its airspace for all civilian traffic. The closure had taken a heavy financial toll on India's national carrier Air India.

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Pakistani authorities announced the complete reopening of the country’s airspace for civilian flights, nearly five months after the military escalation with India.

Indian airlines on Tuesday resumed flight operations on normal routes to Europe and other west-bound destinations over the Pakistan airspace.

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“After cancellation of NOTAMS by Pakistan and India in the early hours of Tuesday, there are no restrictions on airspaces of both countries, flights have started using the closed air routes, bringing a significant relief for airlines,” the Ministry of Civil Aviation said on Twitter.

“With immediate effect, Pakistan airspace is open for all type of civil traffic on published ATS (Air Traffic Service) routes,” according to a notice to airmen (NOTAMS) published on the CAA’s website.

In March, Pakistan had partially opened its airspace, but kept it closed for Indian flights.

Pakistan closed off its airspace on February 27, resulting in the cancellation of all domestic flights and the diversion of international flights, although operations were partially resumed at a handful of airports a short while later.

Pakistan’s move came after the Indian Air Force’s February 26 Balakot strike which was in retaliation to the February 14 suicide bombing in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district that killed 42 CRPF troopers.

The attack was carried out by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed terror group.

Following the Balakot strike, Islamabad bombed Indian territory, triggering air combat in which fighter jets were shot down and an Indian pilot was captured by Pakistan. He was released later.

The latest development comes after Pakistan Aviation Secretary Shahrukh Nusrat told a parliamentary committee last week that Islamabad would not open its airspace until India de-escalates.

“The Indian government approached asking us to open the airspace. We conveyed our concerns that first India must withdraw its fighter planes placed forward,” Dawn News reported citing Nusrat as telling the Senate Standing Committee on Aviation.

IANS