Pak minister says Imran may stop Indian flights, trade via its routes

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Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan said, there are possibilities that a conventional war between the two countries will end in a nuclear war, if one side was losing. Photo: PTI File

A Pakistan minister has said that the Imran Khan government was mulling a complete ban on the use of Pakistani airspace for Indian flights and land routes for Indian trade to Afghanistan.

Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry on Tuesday (August 27) in a tweet, said, “Legal formalities for these decisions are under consideration. Modi has started, we ll finish!”

The decisions were apparently taken at the Pakistan cabinet meeting, in response to India’s move to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir earlier on August 5.

Pakistan had fully closed its airspace on February 26 after the Indian Air Force fighter jets struck a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist training camp in Balakot in retaliation to the Pulwama attack on February 14. It opened its airspace for all civilian traffic on July 16.

Air India, the country’s flag carrier, operates around 50 flights daily through Pakistani airspace. These are flights to the US, Europe and the Middle East.

Reacting to India’s decision, Pakistan expelled the Indian High Commissioner soon after deciding to downgrade the diplomatic ties with India over what it called New Delhi’s “unilateral and illegal” move.

On Monday, Khan had in a national address told people that his government would go to any length to support the cause of the Kashmiri people, calling India’s move a “historic blunder”.

He had also tried to take up the Kashmir issue to global leaders, but with Modi by his side, US President Donald Trump had at the G7 meeting in France said that Modi feels he had the situation under control. Earlier, Trump had offered to mediate between the two nuclear powers on the Kashmir issue.

French President Emmanuel Macron too had backed India’s stand, saying India and Pakistan should resolve the Kashmir issue bilaterally and no third party should “interfere or incite” violence in the region.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged all parties to avoid any sort of escalation in Kashmir during his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the G7 Summit in the French town of Biarritz, according to his spokesman.

Also read: Extreme rhetoric not conducive to peace: PM Modi tells Trump

A beleaguered Khan has come under attack at home too. Pakistan Opposition leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari slammed him for his “complete failure” in handling the Kashmir issue, asserting that earlier Pakistan’s policy was how to take Srinagar from India, but now the concern is how to save Muzaffarabad, the capital of PoK.

Addressing media persons in Rawalpindi on Monday, Bilawal, the son of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, said Pakistan “lost Kashmir” due to the incompetency of the Khan government.

Besides revoking the special status of J&K, India’s Home Minister Amit Shah also moved a bill to bifurcate the state into two Union Territories — Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. The bill was passed with majority in both the Houses of Parliament, paving the way for the historic move.