NEW DELHI: The United Nation’s aviation arm, International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), has sought information from Pakistan on the issue of repeated denial of giving overflying clearance to Air India One flying the Indian President or Prime Minister between Delhi and the west. India had officially approached ICAO against Pakistan’s most recent decision to deny overflight clearance to PM Narendra Modi’s aircraft, saying such nods are otherwise routinely provided by any normal country. In the latest case, PM Modi took the longer route while flying from Delhi to Riyadh on Monday.
“ICAO’s Council President has acknowledged the letter from India, and that he has sent a request to Pakistan requesting further information,” Anthony Philbin, chief of communications at ICAO secretary-general’s office, told TOI from Montreal in the early hours of Tuesday (India time).
Pakistan had on Sunday denied India’s request to allow PM Modi’s aircraft to use its airspace for his visit to Saudi Arabia. As a result, the AI
(VT-ESO) called “Khajuraho” took the longer route to Saudi Arabia over the Arabian Ocean avoiding Cyclone Kyarr, the first super cyclonic storm in Arabian Sea in last 12 years. The increase in flying time was about 45 minutes.
Official sources here said India regretted Pakistan’s decision to yet again deny overflight clearance for the VVIP special flight to Riyadh, which is otherwise granted routinely by any normal country. “Overflight clearances are sought, and granted by other countries as per prescribed ICAO guidelines and India will continue to seek such overflight clearances,” said a senior government source here. “Separately, we have taken up the matter of such denial with the relevant international civil aviation body,” he added.
Late on Monday evening (India time), ICAO’s response to India’s raising the issue of Pakistan denying overflying clearance to AI One was that its writ did not run on non-civilian aircraft. “The Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention), which ICAO helps governments to cooperate under, only applies to the operations of civilian aircraft and not to state or military aircraft. Flights carrying national leaders are considered state aircraft, and are therefore not subject to ICAO provisions.”
However given how serious India is taking the issue, ICAO hours later both “acknowledged” India’s letter and sought information from Pakistan.
The Indian government also called upon Pakistan to reflect upon its decision to deviate from well established international practice, as well as reconsider “its old habit of misrepresenting the reasons for taking unilateral action.”
Since February, VVIP flights between Delhi and the west of the Indian President and PM have taken the longer route as AI One is not overflying Pakistan airspace. The neighbouring country’s airspace was closed for overflying by all flights from February 27 following Indian Air Force’s
strike and the same was re-opened after 138 days on July 16. While schedule commercial and charter flights have started overflying Pakistan after July 16, Pakistan has not allowed Indian AI One to overfly.
In September, Pakistan turned down overflight request by India for the PM “Howdy Modi” US visit. In the same month, President
had to take the longer route between Delhi and Europe. In June, PM Modi flew from Delhi to Bishkek taking the longer route.
The alternate route from Delhi bypassing Pakistan airspace means flying close to Mumbai then taking the Arabian Sea (steering clear Pakistan airspace around Karachi)-Muscat route onward to Europe. The straight route would have entailed flying from Delhi to Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran to Europe.
The longer route was taken by Air India Boeing 747 (VT-ESO) “Khajuraho” on Monday while flying PM Modi from Delhi to Riyadh as a result of Pakistan yet again denying overflying permission to AI One.