Pakistan made a rare exception for Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to fly directly through its airspace to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Foreign Minister’s meet in Bishkek last week, reported Indian media.
According to The Hindu, officials in Islamabad and New Delhi also confirmed the development.
The Indian minister was in Kyrgyzstan on May 21 and 22, along with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi for the SCO summit.
“The Indian government had requested us to allow Swaraj to fly over Pakistan to avoid the longer route, and we gave them permission,” Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal was quoted in the report as saying.
Indian government sources in Delhi confirmed, “The overflight permission was granted by Pakistan based on route permission filed by relevant [Indian] authorities. External Affairs Minister’s flight to Bishkek was over Pakistani airspace both ways.”
Without the special permission from Pakistan, Swaraj’s flight, which took four hours to the Kyrgyz capital, would have taken nearly eight hours each way.
Thousands of travellers suffered flight cancellations, delays and soaring ticket prices after a suicide bombing in Indian-occupied Kashmir (IoK) sparked tensions between the neighbours in February this year.
Following the attack, Pakistan and India carried out aerial bombing missions on each other’s soil and their warplanes also fought a dogfight over Kashmir.
Earlier in May, Pakistan extended airspace restrictions until the end of May, forcing foreign carriers to take costly detours since the country’s standoff with rival India.