Pakistan refuses permission for India's Modi to fly across its airspace

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan refused a request from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to cross its airspace on a flight to Germany, Pakistan’s foreign minister said on Wednesday, as tensions between the two nations ran high over the disputed region of Kashmir.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attends a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia September 4, 2019. Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Islamabad had told the Indian High Commission it was turning down India’s request for Modi to fly across the country on Friday and for his return the following week.

“Keeping in view the situation in occupied Kashmir ... we have decided that we will not allow the Indian prime minister,” Qureshi said in a video released by the foreign ministry.

Indian foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said New Delhi regretted Pakistan’s decision, adding that it was the second time in two weeks that such a request for a “VVIP” overflight had been denied.

“Pakistan should 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,” he said.

Relations between Islamabad and New Delhi, already hostile, have been further strained over India’s decision last month to revoke the special status of its portion of the Kashmir region that both countries claim.

Pakistan reacted with fury, cutting transport and trade links and expelling India’s ambassador.

The Pakistani government said last month it was mulling a complete closure of its airspace to India, which would cause headaches for commercial airlines.

Earlier this month, Pakistan also denied use of its airspace to India’s President Ram Nath Kovind.

Pakistan restricted international flights in its airspace from February to July, after Indian and Pakistani fighter jets clashed over the territory.

The restrictions affected hundreds of commercial and cargo flights each day, adding flight time for passengers and fuel costs for airlines.

Reporting by Asif Shahzad and Charlotte Greenfield; Additional reporting by Aftab Ahmed; Editing by Catherine Evans and Alex Richardson