Why Pak’s airspace ban for Srinagar-Sharjah flight flouts norms

No official explanation has been given by Pakistan for the ban, which it had instituted in 2009 as well.

flights
The First Freedom of Air grants the right to fly across territory without landing.

Pakistan last week refused to allow GoFirst’s Srinagar-Sharjah flight to use its airspace, thereby violating the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) First Freedom of Air, which grants the right to fly across territory without landing.

Union home minister Amit Shah had flagged off the first flight from Srinagar to Sharjah – an international route which was revived almost after 11 years – just last month while visiting the state. Since Kashmiris were mostly using the flight, it is believed Pakistan’s refusal of air space would hurt them the most, and make the flight costlier and longer.

The flight route took it through Pakistani airspace before heading southwest and arriving in Sharjah. On November 2, once the flight was denied permission to enter Pakistan, it flew south over Rajasthan and Gujarat before heading west over the Arabian Sea and flying through Omani airspace before entering the UAE. The refusal has resulted in the 3 hours 45 minute-flight adding around 40 minutes to its flight time.

The matter has been taken up by the Union civil aviation ministry, external affairs ministry and home ministry.

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This is also not the first time Pakistan has denied access to its air space. In 2009, it had prohibited an Air India Express flight from Srinagar to Dubai from using its airspace, which was thus forced to take a longer route. The flight eventually became more expensive and less feasible for travellers, saw reduced demand and the service was finally halted.

According to media reports, no official explanation has been given by Pakistan for the ban, while India has taken up the matter with the nation and plans to approach the international fora if they do not respond. Also, other Indian airlines flying to west Asia from airports such as Delhi and Lucknow have not been barred from using the Pakistani airspace.

Freedom of air

In 1944, after the Chicago Convention, signatories set rules to facilitate international commercial aviation. Six ‘freedoms of air’ or rights were thus decided. These freedoms grant airlines of a country the privilege to use and/or land in another country’s airspace. The first freedom of air grants the right to an airline of one country to fly over a second country and land in a third country – as was happening with the GoFirst Srinagar-Sharjah flight.

The second freedom of air grants the right to refuel or carry out maintenance in a foreign country without embarking or disembarking passengers or cargo. The third and fourth freedoms grant the right to fly from the airline’s home country to another and from a foreign country to the airline’s own, respectively. Other freedoms of air pertain to operation of an airline between two countries not including the country of its origin and within a foreign country with and without having a stop in the home country.

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