Millennium Post

Hurt by the recoil

By opening its airspace after a long spell of closure, Pakistan has allayed much of the stress on several countries–which was primarily induced by Pakistan itself–due to additional costs being incurred in using alternative routes for their flights travelling to other nations. Shortly after Monday midnight, Pakistan in the NOTAM (notice to airmen) issued cancelled its closure of airspace which led to India doing the same and liberating the crucial airspace which connects Europe and Central Asia to Southeast Asia from any curfew. Pakistan's prolonged closure of its airspace had become a cause for concern considering the losses being incurred by airline companies due to extra fuel consumption in taking a peripheral route as well as pit stops for refuelling. Amidst the sufferers stood Air India posing a cumulative loss of 491 crores till July 2. SpiceJet and GoAir also suffered losses of 30.73 and 2.1 crores until June 20. IndiGo also incurred a gross loss of 25.1 crores till the end of May. This, of course, began since Pakistan shut its airspace following India's pre-emptive airstrike on Balakot on February 26 in retaliation to the Pulwama carnage. In a fifth notice since the closure on February 26, Pakistan had extended the closure till July 26. In fact, last week they had denied any possibility of opening it till the Indian fighter jets were stationed at forward positions. The delay that Pakistan had enforced on flights accustomed to flying through its airspace was at least 45-90 minutes. That was in addition to fuel and refuelling costs. The delay inflicted by Pakistan was also the reason for the surge in prices of flights active over the pertinent routes which had invariably made air travel costly. A mere diplomatic decision meant to pose a statement from the country which suffered an airstrike from a neighbouring country with the ambition to destroy terror outfits–especially those who had attacked in the first place–ultimately ended up hurting consumers the most. And, as that reality came to the surface, it brought along Pakistan's actual agenda of taking a U-turn on its decision. Monetary loses by airlines of several countries was definitely a consequence but so was the same incurred by Pakistan itself. The consequential closure of Indian Airspace meant Pakistan had to bear the cost of going around India for its flight destined to Southeast Asia–Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand et al. On top of that, maintenance and refuelling charges that make up a hefty sum for Pakistan earned through the use of its airspace by foreign flights drew a nil which contributed majorly in costing the country around $100 million as per reports. Already in a deep economic crisis and under the constant watch of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), it definitely was not the right move to shut its airspace and further cost the country so much money. The relevant question here for Pakistan is why not sooner? It was not that financial loses became visible only after five months. Pakistan had recently avoided getting blacklisted by remaining in the grey list of FATF–which is in itself concerning for the country–and it was clear that it cannot take financial liberty over retaliatory theatrics. Nevertheless, it did before finally calling it off, much to everyone's relief.

140 days of closure, in common sense, is in itself not sounding very beneficial but given the tension that the neighbouring countries of India and Pakistan had at the time, closure might have seemed like the most logical and immediate move. In retrospect, however, they could have expedited the cancellation of such closure to avoid incurring huge losses. Governance should take precedence and good governance is not going to hurt the economy, especially when it is already under stress. It was not so that India would have carried out successive strikes so the move was singlehandedly aimed at India with byproducts of costing an economic slump. Well, as much as it was meant for India, it backfired to hurt Pakistan more. It is in these matters that diplomacy should be utilised to derive an optimum solution, not a stringent stance. Nevertheless, the move now will benefit all airlines using Pakistan's airspace and resume business as usual with the hope of no more closures. In the contemporary world, economic interests take precedence and a rigid and non-compliance attitude will only yield loses. The US and China have led by example on that note through their trade war!

Next Story
Share it