Analysis & opinion

Why Pakistan must keep its airspace closed for India


It is vital that in times of crisis, such as the one that has unfolded in Kashmir, Pakistan use this strategic leverage to further its aims. Given the fact that Pakistan has utilized all available fulcrums such as cutting off diplomatic, trade and cultural relations and even called for the international community to thwart India from escalating the situation in Kashmir but the results have not been satisfactory enough, it is high time that we consider giving India a blow where it maters the most, that is, to hit at its economy.

One of the many geo-strategic advantages of Pakistan include the fact that it lies at the heart of a vital global aviation corridor that connects more than 400 flights per day between destinations in US and Europe on one hand and South Asia on the other hand.

As has been witnessed in the aftermath of the Indian Air force’s failed attack at Balakot on February 26, which led Pakistan to closing its airspace to all international airlines since then, Indian Airlines were hit the worst.

Indian Airlines using Pakistan Airspace were not only forced to reroute over to Oman and Iranian airspace but it also significantly raised flying hours, fuel charges and the number of stop-overs for long haul flights to Europe and US. All of these factors combined translated into large dents in the financial statement of the numerous Airlines operating from India.

The Indian Minister of State for Civil Aviation, Mr. Hardeep Singh Puri, in a written response to a question raised in Rajya Sabha on July 5, had revealed that the total losses suffered by Indian Airlines in the wake of airspace closure by Pakistan amounted to Rs. 549 crore, i.e Rs. 6 crore per day.

Air India, the national career, lost Indian Rupees 491 crore till July 2, IndiGo suffered a loss of Rs. 25.1 crore till May 31, SpiceJet and GoAir lost Rs. 30.73 crore and Rs. 2.1 crore till June 20 respectively.

The financial losses were not only felt across board meetings of these companies but they were also translated into higher flight fares for Indian travelers as these airlines had no other option but to raise prices for most frequent routes such as Delhi-Kabul, Delhi-Moscow, Delhi-Tehran and Delhi-Astana.

Indian diaspora travelling to and for India had raised a huge commotion that was well broadcasted over the Indian media which called for the government of India to talk to Pakistan to ease the airspace conditions. Although Pakistan did not fully open its airspace, opening it only partially when Indian authorities called on it, this saga proves one thing quite well. If Pakistan wants to use the airspace leverage in a more effective manner, i.e to keep it permanently blocked, India will be forced to come to the table.

At a time when Pakistan wants India to de-escalate the situation in Kashmir and give the locals relief from incarceration, curfew and communication lock down, our authorities must use their geo-strategic advantages in order to give India a run for its money. Since India has only been responsive to economic threats and has negated all other initiatives by Pakistan, authorities in Islamabad must close its airspace completely in order to bring New Delhi to come to terms with it.

Written by: Umair Ahmad Abbasi

About The Author: Umair Ahmed Abbasi is a Health, Safety, Security and Environment Specialist who has worked on many international platforms around the globe. Staying abroad made him a harsh critic of strategy and politics. He can be followed on twitter @UmairAAbbasi