Panicky Pakistan considers shutting its airspace to India, again

Despite having suffered massive financial consequences the last time it shut its airspace to India, Pakistan is once again considering doing the same now.

In a tweet on Tuesday evening, Pakistan minister Fawad Chaudhry said that Imran Khan is contemplating a number of moves in retaliation to India’s decision to revoke Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir on August 5. “PM is considering a complete closure of air space to India,” he wrote. “A complete ban on use of Pakistan land routes for Indian trade to Afghanistan was also suggested in cabinet meeting. Legal formalities for these decisions are under consideration. Modi has started, we’ll finish!”

 

 

Chaudhry’s hollow bravado on the micro-blogging site could cost Pakistan far more dearly than it may hurt India. Pakistan had shut its airspace on February 27 following Indian Air Force’s strikes against terror camps in Balakot. The country warned that the airspace would remain shut unless India withdraws fighter jets from its forward bases, a threat ignored by New Delhi. Pakistan would eventually open its airspace once again on July 16 after 140 days.

A number of reasons would have forced Pakistan to reopen its airspace and these could once again be factors for the country to keep the airspace open. Among these reasons, financial constraints figure prominently. Pakistan’s aviation minister had previously admitted his country suffered losses worth $50 million because of the shut airspace over 140 days. The amount is significant especially in a bankrupt country like Pakistan which has a shambolic economy that has needed bailout packages to stay afloat. And while Imran Khan stated in an address to his nation on Monday that Pakistan would go to any extent on the Kashmir issue, he is under tremendous pressure to stabilise the country’s economy. Shutting the airspace may, therefore, shut any hopes of an economic recovery in Pakistan.

As for shutting land routes through Pakistan for Indo-Afghan trade, New Delhi continues to have a viable option of sending goods through Chabahar Port.