Thursday, Oct 06, 2022

'Over-flight Restrictions Lifted'

Press briefing by the official spokesperson on June 10 announcing the lifting of all restrictions placed since 1 January on Pakistani Aircraft and Pakistan Airlines to over-fly Indian Territory.

Ms. Rao: Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen, before I go on to making my announcement for today, I just wanted to brief you also about the visit of the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe, who arrived this morning. 

He has had meetings with the Finance Minister, Mr. Yashwant Sinha and the Minister of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Murasoli Maran. Later in the evening, the Leader of the Opposition will call on him and former Prime Minister, Mr. Narasimha Rao will also be meeting him. Mr. Wickremesinghe will call on Rashtrapatiji in the evening. His meetings with Prime Minister are scheduled for tomorrow morning followed by lunch, and the External Affairs Minister and Home Minister will also be meeting him tomorrow. As you know, Mr. Wickremesinghe was here last December. Our relationship with Sri Lanka is extremely important to us and our commitment to the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka and to the restoration of lasting peace through a peaceful negotiated settlement in that country which meets the just aspirations of all elements of Sri Lankan society remains undiminished. India is Sri Lanka’s closest neighbour both historically and physically, separated as we are only by the Palk Strait. 

During this visit, besides the ongoing Peace Process in Sri Lanka there will also be discussions on trade and economic matters, the strengthening of economic and commercial cooperation and interaction between the two countries. I will give you the details of the visit tomorrow when the discussions get over. 

What is India’s stand on extradition of Prabakaran 
Well, the extradition request was made in 1995. It continues to be operative. There is no change in the situation. 

Ms. Rao: Now I will go on to my announcement. 

The Government of India has decided that with effect from today the 10th June 2002 all restrictions placed since 1 January this year on Pakistani Aircraft and Pakistan Airlines to over-fly Indian Territory are lifted. Of course as before normal procedures for approval involving the Ministries of External Affairs, Civil Aviation and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation as appropriate would apply. 

On what basis has this decision been taken? 
Well, this is in response to what we had stated just the other day about the fact that we welcomed the assurances made by President Musharraf about putting a permanent end to infiltration and cross border terrorism. We had mentioned at that time that India would respond appropriately and positively at the right moment. So this is a follow up to that. 

But you also said that we would assess the situation on the ground? 
This is the decision of the Government of India. Yes, we are engaged in a very detailed assessment of the situation on the ground and there is reason to believe that there has been some improvement in the situation and we have decided to make this announcement today as a follow up. 

What about the re-deployment of ships? 
This is the only announcement I have to make. 

Ms. Rao, Government of India had laid down two pre-conditions for reciprocity. What information do you have to take this decision? 

There is an ongoing process of verification and monitoring that we are engaged in. There has been a certain announcement made by the Government of Pakistan in recent days about putting a permanent end to infiltration and cross border terrorism. Obviously our response to these measures will be sequenced. There is a menu of options available to the government and today’s announcement should be seen as an indication of our continued monitoring of the situation. Our desire is for peace because to peace there is no alternative we believe.We see the situation as a fluid one in which over the next few days or rather over the coming period of time I would say, the assessment will continue. Its not that we have stopped our assessments or we have come to a definite conclusion that there is a tangible, palpable change in the situation. But certainly, certain changes in the situation are taking place and we continue to be seized of what is happening and this is a sequenced reaction. 

What is this certain change? Is there a fall in infiltration? 
To some extent, yes, there has been some fall. It would be difficult to say whether this is a definite trend as yet and I think 10 days or 12 days is still too short a time in which to come to a final conclusion about what is happening. But we felt this response was warranted under the circumstances and therefore we have made this announcement. 

Is the Indian Ambassador going back to Islamabad? 

If you actually see a reduction in infiltration, what next? 
I would not be able to talk about next steps. We are dealing with the immediate situation at the moment. I wouldn’t talk about options either. 

Will you say that this a gesture in view of Mr. Rumsfeld’s visit? 
No, its not to be seen as that. Its an indication of our genuine desire for peace and it must not be seen in anyway as the dilution of our commitment to fight terrorism. That commitment remains undiluted, it remains steadfast and our monitoring of the situation on the ground continues and we continue to be vigilant about the situation along the LoC. 

Why such a modest gesture to Musharraf’s turn around? 
Well, I don’t think it's modest because we are talking of lifting of the restrictions on overflights and in a sense that is not a small step. I believe it’s a significant step that has been announced. 

How many flights would it affect? 

I am not exactly sure of that as to how many flights it would affect. 

Is this a decision of the Cabinet Committee on Security? 

This is a decision of the Government of India. I don’t need to go into the details. But its based on detailed examination of various options. It’s the considered view of the government that we announce this at this time. 

Has cross border terrorism declined or stopped completely?  
As I said this is an ongoing assessment and it will take a little more time to come to final conclusions about this. There has been some fall in infiltration, a trend is 
not yet definitely established. But as I said earlier in this briefing we have welcomed the assurance given by the President of Pakistan that he is going to ensure that there will be a permanent end to infiltration and cross border terrorism and this we believe is a positive statement, a positive step and India had indicated at that time that we would respond appropriately and positively. 

What makes Musharraf more believable this time? 
While this is not completely established, there is some amount of discernability in the reduction in infiltration. I think the world needs to hold him down to that assurance and we welcome that statement . I think there is logic or reason to welcome that statement. I believe the world community has also in a sense, played a part in convincing Pakistan of the need to take such steps. 

When would the lifting of restrictions be applicable? 
Well, this is with immediate effect and they will have to obtain the necessary clearances from the DGCA and MEA. 

Besides lowering of infiltration are there any other indications like the closing down of terrorist camps, etc? 
Not as yet. But we have said very clearly that reduction in infiltration or putting an end to infiltration should also involve the dismantling of the terrorist camps in Pakistan and on Pakistan controlled territory. 

When Rumsfeld comes will you make more demands like the closing of the terrorist camps. Etc? 
Obviously, our demands in that regard stand and we would expect action from Pakistan on that front very definitely. Our concerns on this are known to the Government of the United States also.