India Re-opens Airspace To Pakistan

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:11 PM EDT

Pacific Rim Bureau ( - In the first concrete sign that India and Pakistan are edging away from open conflict, New Delhi has announced it will again allow its Muslim neighbor's civilian aircraft overflight rights.

Monday's move followed an undertaking by Pakistan's Gen. Pervez Musharraf to prevent infiltration by Pakistan-based Islamic militants into the Indian-ruled portion of Kashmir, the territory divided between the neighbors and claimed in its entirety by both.

The U.S., along with Russia and Britain, have been pushing efforts to prevent an outbreak of war between the two traditional rivals, which now boast nuclear arsenals.

Pakistan's Foreign Ministry welcomed the overflight decision as a step in the right direction, but called for further action by India. Widely expected shortly is an announcement to return diplomats recalled from Islamabad.

India in late December denied Pakistan the right to fly through its airspace en route to third countries as part of several diplomatic and practical sanctions during the crisis precipitated by terrorist attacks on India's Parliament days earlier.

Pakistan's national carrier, PIA, was hard hit by the decision, which affected 23 flights weekly - 11 to Indian destinations and the rest to other cities in East Asia.

In another sign the crisis may be easing, shelling at each other's forces in Kashmir is reportedly being scaled back.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld visits Pakistan and India this week. Analysts say Washington's ability to apply diplomatic pressure on India has increased considerably with the recent surge of military cooperation between the U.S. and India, a formerly "non-aligned" nation, which enjoyed good ties with the former Soviet Union.

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow