Pakistan, on Tuesday, did not allow Go First’s Srinagar-Sharjah flight to pass through its airspace, prompting the service to take a longer route via Gujarat to reach its destination in UAE. This added 40 minutes more to the flight time. Union Home Minister Amit Shah had inaugurated the flight last month during his visit to the Valley.
Go First, previously known as GoAir, had started direct flights between Srinagar and Sharjah from October 23 onwards. Officials said the flight was going through Pakistan airspace till October 31.
However, on Tuesday, Pakistan did not allow the flight to pass through its airspace, and therefore, the service had to take a longer route, going over Gujarat. There were no reasons given by the Pakistan government as yet for refusing the permission to the flight, officials said. This is the first service between J&K and the UAE after 11 years. Air India Express had started a Srinagar-Dubai flight in February 2009 but it was discontinued after some time due to low demand.
When the Srinagar-Sharjah flight was announced open on October 23, former J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah expressed concerns over whether Pakistan has indeed changed its heart and allowed the Indian flight to enter its airspace. “If not that this flight will die the way the Srinagar-Dubai flight died during UPA2,” he had tweeted. “Because of Pakistan’s cussed refusal to allow flights originating from Srinagar to use its airspace, the SXR-DXB flight had to take a technical halt in Delhi or had to fly south and go around Pakistan airspace. This made the flight completely unviable both in terms of cost and time.”
This time around Omar said its very unfortunate. “Pakistan did the same thing with the Air India Express flight from Srinagar to Dubai in 2009-10. I had hoped that @GoFirst airways being permitted to overfly Pak airspace was indicative of a thaw in relations but alas that wasn’t to be,” he tweeted.
Mehbooba Mufti, PDP leader and former J&K chief minister, blamed the Indian government. She tweeted that its puzzling that GoI didn’t even bother securing permission from Pakistan to use its airspace for international flights from Srinagar. “Only PR extravaganza without any groundwork.”
The withdrawal of the permission comes at a time when the Pakistan government is allowing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s special VVIP flight to use its airspace. Modi’s recent visit to Italy for the G20 summit – the flight flew over the Pakistani airspace and came back using the same route. It should be noted that in September, PM Modi’s flight was allowed through the same airspace to fly to Washington.