President Kovind, Pakistan, airspace
President Kovind (image: ANI)

Pakistan has refused a request by India to allow President Ram Nath Kovind to use its airspace for his travel to Iceland, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on Saturday.

Kovind will be travelling to Iceland, Switzerland and Slovenia on an official nine-day visit beginning Monday, wherein he is expected to brief the top leadership in those countries on India’s “national concerns”, especially in view of terror attacks this year, including the Pulwama attack.

The move by Pakistan was approved by Prime Minister Imran Khan against the backdrop of the tense situation in Kashmir, Qureshi told state broadcaster PTV on Saturday.

Earlier Pakistan threatened to close its airspace for flights taking off from Indian soil in protest against the scrapping the special status of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and its bifurcation into two union territories. Moreover, diplomatic ties with India were degraded by Islamabad with Indian envoy Ajay Bisaria sent back to India.

Meanwhile, Pakistan has sought to internationalise the issue of J&K, pressing on the United Nations to intervene.

In August, on the sidelines of the G-7 summit in France, PM Modi had reiterated India’s stand that all issues with Pakistan are bilateral and that India would not trouble any other nation for them. He had said that two neighbouring countries were together before 1947 and so could “discuss our problems and solve them, together”.

This is the second time this year that Pakistan has closed its airspace. The first was in the wake of Balakot airstrikes on February 26 when the Indian Air Force fighter jets struck a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). The airstrikes were in retaliation to the Pulwama attack carried out by the terrorist organisation.

Five months later Pakistan opened its airspace for all civilian traffic on July 16.

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