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Pakistan airspace quandary: Afghanistan exports to India reduce

AT Monitoring Desk

KABUL: The closure of Pakistan’s airspace to commercial flights between Kabul and New Delhi has decreased Afghanistan’s exports, including dry fruit, vegetables, fresh fruit, carpets, and handicrafts, to India by 30 per cent, officials said.

Tolo News confirmed that Afghan farmers and investors will have to face losses if the airspace remains closed during the vegetable and fruit harvesting season, after quoting Mir Zaman Popal, an official at the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI).

“Closure of Pakistan’s airspace to Afghan flights is a serious matter and we know that the challenges will increase if the situation prevails,” Popal was quoted as saying.

Pakistan had fully closed its airspace to all commercial flights late in February after an Indian Air Force carried out aerial airstrikes on a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror camp in Balakot on February 26.

The strikes were in response to the terror attack in Pulwama, in which about 40 Indian CRPF personnel lost their lives on February 14.

In March, the country partially opened its airspace for all flights but not for Indian flights.

The airspace was opened to some certain flights but it is yet to be opened for Afghan flights en route to India.

Afghan airliners are using Iran and China routes for Kabul-Delhi flights which according to airline companies are expensive and time-consuming.

Last month, Pakistan said its airspace on its eastern border with India will remain closed until June 14.

While Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan promised President Ashraf Ghani on the sidelines of the 14th summit of the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation in Saudi Arabia to resolve the airspace problem, but so far, nothing has happened in this regard.

Pakistan lies in the middle of a vital aviation corridor whereby the airspace restrictions, which have been continuing since a long time, impacts hundreds of commercial flights each day, extending flight timings for passengers, as well as fuel costs for airlines.

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