Nirmala Sitharaman in twitter spat with Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw; says she is working on the economy

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NEW DELHI: India’s Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on September 19 defended her handling of the economy saying she has been working on measures to revive the growth from a six-year low.

Sitharaman, who is not known to reply to comments made on her twitter handle, instantly choose to respond to drug-maker Biocon Chairman Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw’s criticism of lack of fiscal measures to support growth.

“As Finance Minister — you might’ve observed — I’ve been working on and regularly speaking about measures we’ve been taking on matters of the economy,” Sitharaman posted in a three-part tweet.

Shaw had wondered why Finance Minister, and not the health minister, addressed the press conference on Wednesday to announce a ban on e-cigarettes.

“E-cigarettes banned, says Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman – Shd this not come from Min of Health? How about banning gutka too? How about MoF announcing some fiscal measures to revive the economy?” Shaw tweeted this morning.

Sitharaman clarified that she had addressed the press conference on Wednesday in her capacity as head of the group of ministers (GoM) that had gone into the issue of ban on e-cigarettes.

“Kiran ji, a few things. This press conference was dedicated to Cabinet decisions. I began by saying that I was there in my capacity as Chair of the GoM which has dealt with the matter. @drharshvardhan is out of the country for an international meet,” she said in her first tweet.

She had also mentioned at the press conference on Wednesday that Health Minister Harsh Vardhan was travelling out of the country.

“Cabinet Minister/s join @PrakashJavdekar, the I&B Minister, when required. Health Secretary was also with me, explaining details. These are protocols, as you know, which govt press conferences follow,” she said in her second tweet.

And followed it up with a third tweet on working on matters of the economy.

With her maiden budget on July 5 seemingly failing to address issues facing the economy and doing little to bolster growth that has slowed to a six-year low and check unemployment that’s risen to a 45-year high, Sitharaman has over the past one month announced in measures in three tranches for different sectors of the economy including automobiles, banks and real estate.

While she had pre-budget meetings with top representatives of various sectors to understand their requirements and issues facing them, the finance minister met different sectoral officials again within weeks of the Budget presentation and has repeatedly stated that these meetings formed the basis for the measures she has announced in three tranches.

India’s GDP growth slowed for the fifth consecutive quarter in April-June 2019 to 5 per cent, the lowest in six years. This was on the back of faltering domestic demand, with both private consumption and investment proving lackluster.

In response, her initial policy measures included support for the automobile sector, reduction in capital gains tax, and additional liquidity support for shadow banks. Accompanying structural reforms included a further easing of the foreign direct investment (FDI) regime and consolidation of the public banking sector.

In the third part, she on last Saturday (September 14) announced a stressed asset fund to fund unfinished real estate projects and measures to boost exports.

There are expectations that she may announce the fourth tranche of measures soon.

With some on Twitterati seeing the exchange as a spat, Shaw tweeted again to clarify it wasn’t.

“Media loves to rile viewers by using sensational headlines n get eyeballs. There is no ‘spat’ or ‘war of words’. I consider our FM to be a very reasonable n pragmatic person who displayed maturity n grace in her response to my comments including her assurance on the economy,” she tweeted.

Source: Press Trust of India

 

Manmohan Singh was ready to attack Pakistan, says Former British premier

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Former British premier David Cameron released his memoirs on Thursday, in which he speaks of getting on well with “saintly” former Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh, who even confided in him about the prospect of military action against Pakistan in case of another Mumbai-like terrorist attack.

For The Record is a chronicle of 52-year-old Cameron’s personal as well as professional life, specifically covering the period between 2010 and 2016 when he was in charge at Downing Street and had close dealings with both Singh as well Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“I got on well with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He was a saintly man, but he was robust on the threats India faced. On a later visit, he told me that another terrorist attack like that (2008) in Mumbai in July 2011 [sic], and India would have to take military action against Pakistan,” notes Cameron, as he recalls one of his many visits to India during his time in office.

“When it came to India, I argued that we needed a modern partnership not one tinged with colonial guilt, but alive to the possibilities of the world’s oldest democracy and the world’s largest democracy. Many of Britain’s most successful business leaders and cultural figures are from the Indian diaspora community and would be our greatest weapons in the endeavour,” he adds.

As part of a considerable focus on the India-UK relationship in his memoirs, the 52-year-old former Conservative Party politician is all praise for the two Indian leaders and relives hugging Modi on stage during his address at Wembley Stadium in November 2015.

He recalls: “Hot on [Chinese President] Xi’s heels came the new Indian PM, Narendra Modi. There were several moments’ including the largest ever gathering of the Indian diaspora in the UK at Wembley Stadium.

“Before introducing Modi, I told the 60,000-strong crowd that I envisaged a British Indian entering No 10 Downing Street as PM one day. The roar of approval was incredible. And as Modi and I hugged on stage I hoped that this small gesture would be a signal of the open-armed eagerness with which Britain approached the world.

On a more personal note, Cameron speaks fondly of travelling around Delhi in a tuk-tuk and walking through the slums of Mumbai in the pouring rain to visit a community project.

“We couldn’t afford to carry on obsessing about Europe and America while ignoring the fresh new forces that were shaping our world,” he writes.

In particular, he delves in detail into his historic visit to the Golden Temple in Amritsar during the largest UK trade mission he led to India in 2013 and became the first British prime minister to express regret for the Raj era Jallianwala Bagh massacre at the site.

Cameron recalls: “For a long time, friends and colleagues in the British Indian community had encouraged me to go to the Golden Temple in Amritsar. The holiest of Sikh sites had been the scene of a massacre in 1919, when British Indian Army soldiers fired upon a peaceful public meeting, killing hundreds of people.

“No serving Prime Minister had ever been to Amritsar, let alone expressed regret for what happened. I wanted to change both those things, and would do so after the trade mission the largest in UK history I would lead in February 2013, ” he said.

“Ahead of my visit, there was an internal row about whether I should say sorry’. But ultimately, I felt that expressing regret for what I described in the memorial’s book of condolence as a deeply shameful event in British history’ was appropriate. I knew what it meant to British Sikhs that their prime minister made that gesture, and I’m glad I did so.

Cameron resigned as UK prime minister in June 2016, a day after Britain voted to leave the European Union (EU) in a referendum and has since taken a back seat from the world of frontline politics.

Indian-origin peer Lord Jitesh Gadhia, who worked closely with him during his time at Downing Street, welcomed the significant efforts made the former British premier in strengthening the India-UK relationship.

“David Cameron’s positive legacy with India should not be drowned out by Brexit. As someone who had the privilege of working closely with David Cameron, his efforts to build a modern partnership with India deserve more charitable treatment from historians,” said Gadhia.

“Throughout his tenure, Cameron did more than any other holder of his office to reach out proactively to India, as an emerging superpower, and to recognise the outsized contribution made by over 1.5 million members of the British Indian diaspora, he said.

Source: Press Trust of India

Former OCA secretary Asirbad Behera arrested

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NEW DELHI :The CBI on Thursday arrested former secretary of Odisha Cricket Association (OCA) Asirbad Behera in connection with his alleged links with Artha Tatwa (AT) group, a chit fund firm accused of duping investors.

Behera, who was the OCA secretary for several years, was picked up by the CBI from his residence in Cuttack and brought to the investigating agency’s state headquarters here, agency sources said.

The former OCA secretary has been arrested as he was facing a non-bailable warrant in the case, CBI Superintendent of Police, J N Rana told reporters.

“There is no need for the agency to seek Behera’s remand as he has been arrested on the basis of a NBW,” he said.

While being whisked away by the CBI team, Behera told reporters that he was arrested in connection with a case registered way back in 2012.

“I will fight it legally,” Behera said.

The arrest was made after the Central Bureau of Investigation filed a supplementary chargesheet in the designated court here against Behera and two others on August 29.

The two others were Kamalakanta Das, a representative of a local hotel and Sambit Kumar Khuntia, sources said.

The CBI had on August 16, 2014, raided the OCA office and Behera’s residence. The probe agency had interrogated Behera five times suspecting his alleged links with the AT group.

The investigating agency had also interrogated the OCA staff in this connection.

Behera was also questioned twice by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with the AT chit fund scam case, sources said.

The case was filed under various sections of the IPC and Prize Chits & Money Circulation Schemes (Banning) Act, 1978, an official said.

Earlier, the CBI had registered the instant case against AT Group and others in compliance with the orders of the Supreme Court passed in May 2014.

During the course of investigation, it was alleged that the OCA through Behera, its the then secretary, had entered into a criminal conspiracy with the AT Group, and promoted the chit fund firm to raise its credibility in the eyes of the general public so that more people invested in the schemes floated by the group.

In lieu of the promotion, the charge sheet mentioned, the OCA allegedly received about Rs 1 crore from the chit fund firm in the garb of sponsorship money for the Odisha Ranji Cricket Team and title sponsorship of Odisha Premier League, 2011.

However, Behera had then clarified that the OCA had spent Rs 75 lakh for appointment of Michael Bevan as coach of the Odisha Ranji team, while around Rs 25 lakh was used for organising the Odisha Premier League.

The expenditure was made in a transparent manner, he had then claimed.

Following Behera’s arrest, his son Sanjay Behera alleged that his father was arrested as part of a conspiracy ahead of the ensuing OCA elections, slated to be held on September 27.

Source: Press Trust of India

Arunachal ALG reopens after 3 years

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NEW DELHI: The runway of the Advance Landing Ground (ALG) at Vijaynagar in Arunachal Pradesh has been made operational to re-establish military transport aircraft connectivity to the hamlet, close to the border with Myanmar and not too far from China.

An AN-32 aircraft of the IAF touched down at the Vijaynagar ALG on Wednesday, after a gap of three years.

The approximately 4,000ft-long runway of the ALG is presently fit for only AN-32 operations, Shillong-based IAF spokesperson Wing Comander Ratnakar Singh said.

The resurfaced runway of the ALG was inaugurated by Air Officer Commanding in Chief of Eastern Air Command Air Marshal R D Mathur along with General Officer Commanding in Chief of Eastern Command Lt Gen Anil Chauhan in Changlang district.

Repair of the runway, which was coordinated by Air Force Station Jorhat, was a challenging task as Vijaynagar had no road connectivity and all the load had to be airlifted by helicopters, the spokesman said.

The movement of larger transport aircraft to and from the ALG would act as a catalyst for the development of the area and facilitate movement of the locals, he said.

“The airfield is important not only for the local administration in extending their reach to the residents of this remote area but also crucial from a strategic point of view.

“The ALG will assist in effective management of our borders with Myanmar and facilitate launch of joint operations by the Indian Army and Air Force …,” the spokesman said.

Later in the day, the AOC-in-C visited Aalo in West Siang district to felicitate civilians and award Rupees 5 lakh to them and the local administration at a programme at Along ALG.

The Air Marshal disbursed the amount to the local administration and civilian personnel to acknowledge their contribution in the search for the AN-32 aircraft.

He also commended five mountaineers, including team leader Taka Tamut, and village seniors from Payum, Gasheng and Gatte, for providing assistance in locating the crash site of the AN-32 aircraft in June, besides helping in recovering 13 bodies and other equipment from the site.

The AN-32 plane had crashed on June 3 while on routine air logistics sortie from Jorhat to Menchuka Advance Landing Ground (ALG) in Shi-Yomi district of Arunachal Pradesh.

The crash had resulted in the loss of life of all the 13 personnel on board.

The plane crash site was spotted on June 11, after nine days of vigorous search.

Source: Press Trust of India

Vice Chief of Air Staff RKS Bhadauria appointed next Chief of Air Staff

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NEW DELHI :Government of India has decided to appoint Air Marshal RKS Bhadauria, PVSM, AVSM, VM, ADC, presently Vice Chief of Air Staff as the next Chief of the Air Staff after the retirement of Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa, PVSM, AVSM, YSM, VM, ADC on 30th September 2019.

Air Marshal Bhadauria was commissioned into the Fighter Stream of Indian Air Force in June 1980, and has held various Command, Staff and Instructional Appointments at various levels including the present one as Vice Chief of Air Staff.

This Air Officer is decorated with PVSM, AVSM, VM and he is one of the ADCs to the supreme Commander.

Bhadauria is from North, a village near Agra.He is an alumnus of National Defence Academy, Pune and holds a Masters in Defence studies from Command and Staff College.

Bhadauria was commissioned into the fighter stream of the Indian Air Force on 15 June 1980 with the Sword of Honour. He has clocked over 4250 hours of flying and has experience on 26 different types of fighters.

He held several key operational and administrative appointments at various stages of his service including Commander of a Jaguar Squadron at a front line base in South-Western sector; Commanding Officer of Flight Test Squadron at Aircraft and System Testing Establishment; Chief Test Pilot and Project Director of National Flight Test Centre on the Tejas LCA project; Air Attache in Moscow; Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (Projects); Commandant of the National Defence Academy; Senior Air Staff Officer at Central Air Command and Deputy Chief of the Air Staff (1 January 2016 – 28 February 2017). He is also an experimental Test Pilot, a Category A qualified Flying Instructor and a Pilot Attack Instructor.

Bhadauria served as Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief (AOC-in-C), Southern Air Command from 1 March 2017, succeeding Air Marshal Sunderraman Neelakantan, to 1 August 2018.

He also served as Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief (AOC-in-C), Training Command from 1 August 2018 after retirement of Air Marshal S R K Nair, and held the office till his elevation to the Vice Chief of the Air Staff.

During 36 years of his career, Bhadauria has been awarded several medals: the Ati Vishisht Seva Medal (January 2013), the Vayu Sena Medal (January 2002).[5][12] and the Param Vishisht Seva Medal (January 2018).He was appointed honorary Aide De Campe to the President of India on January 2019.

He is married to Asha Bhadauria and they have two children

Azharuddin files nomination for HCA president’s post

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NEW DELHI: Former India captain Mohammad Azharuddin has filed his nomination for the president’s post in the Hyderabad Cricket Association (HCA) which will hold its elections on September 27.

Azharuddin, whose nomination was unceremoniously rejected two years ago, submitted his papers to former Chief Election Commissioner VS Sampath on Wednesday.

“I want to take inputs from everybody and work for promoting cricket. I want to do something for districts also (towards growth of cricket),” Azharuddin told PTI.

Vikram Man Singh, son of former cricket administrator P R Man Singh, has submitted his nomination for the vice-president’s post.

Those who filed nominations, include Ajmal Asad (secretary), P Srinivas (joint secretary), G Srinivas (treasurer) and P Anuradha (councillor).

The panel for the election will be announced after the withdrawal of nominations on September 23, sources said.

It is understood that the election bid of Azharuddin, Vikram and others has the backing of former cricketers and administrators Arshad Ayub and Shivlal Yadav.

Azharuddin’s nomination paper for HCA president’s post was rejected in 2017 by the returning officer on the grounds that he failed to produce proof of BCCI lifting the ban imposed on him for his alleged involvement in match-fixing.

Election officials had also said then that there was no clarity on whether Azharuddin was an eligible voter form the club he currently represents.

Source: Press Trust of India

Former Jharkhand Cong chief Ajoy Kumar joins AAP

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NEW DELHI: Former Jharkhand Congress chief Ajoy Kumar on Thursday joined the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the presence of Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia.

http://www.ptinews.com/news/10859862_Former-Jharkhand-Cong-chief-Ajoy-Kumar-joins-AAP.htmlOnly the AAP is truly a party of the ‘aam aadmi’ where anyone can join and work towards development, he said.

Kumar, a former IPS officer, resigned as Jharkhand Congress chief last month, accusing some colleagues of promoting their own interests over the party and indulging in corrupt practices.

Source: Press Trusts of India

Robert O’Brien is new U.S. National Security Adviser

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U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday picked U.S. hostage negotiator Robert O’Brien as National Security Adviser, replacing hardliner John Bolton who was fired abruptly last week after clashing with the President on a host of issues.

O’Brien, who will be the fourth person to hold the post in the Trump administration, has served as Trump’s special envoy for hostage affairs at the U.S. Department of State since May 2018 and has a long history in Republican foreign policy circles.

“I have worked long & hard with Robert. He will do a great job!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Trump fired Mr. Bolton after disagreements over handling foreign policy matters relating to North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan, Russia and Venezuela.

O’Brien is an attorney from Los Angeles who has served as a foreign policy adviser to several Republican presidential campaigns, handled a number of high-profile legal cases and previously served in several State Department positions, including as an alternative representative to the UN General Assembly in 2005.

Mr. Trump recently dispatched Mr. O’Brien to Sweden for the court hearing of U.S. rapper A$AP Rocky, who was later convicted for assault.

Senate Republicans praised Trump’s pick as a solid choice.

“He understands the world for the dangerous place it is. He’s got great negotiating skills as our hostage negotiator,” Senator Lindsey Graham told reporters. “He’ll be a very sound policy adviser.”

Source: Reuters

Cabinet bans e-cigarettes; an ordinance soon: India

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NEW DELHI: The government of India on Wednesday banned production, import and sale of e-cigarettes and similar products, citing health risk to people, especially youth, and an ordinance will be brought in to make it an offence, entailing jail term up to three years as well as fine.

The decision, taken by the Union cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, also hit the plans of foreign companies such as Juul Labs and Philip Morris International (PM.N) to enter the Indian market.

“The Cabinet today gave approval to a decision to ban e-cigarettes which is also otherwise technically called the ENDS (Electronic nicotine delivery systems), which means production, manufacturing, import, export, transport, sale, distribution and storage and advertisement related to e cigarettes are all banned,” said Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who had headed a Group of Ministers (GoM) on the issue.

First-time violators will face a jail term of up to one year and a fine of Rs one lakh, and for subsequent offences, a jail term of up to three years or a fine of Rs 5 lakh, or both have been prescribed, she said.

Storage of electronic-cigarettes shall also be punishable with an imprisonment up to 6 months or fine up to Rs 50,000 or both.

According to an official statement, the owners of existing stocks of e-cigarettes on the date of commencement of the ordinance will have to declare and deposit the stocks with the nearest police station.

The government will immediately pass an ordinance, subject to the approval of the President, and the matter will be taken up in the next Parliament session, she said.

However, e-cigarettes promoting trade bodies, users and other stakeholders slammed the government’s move to ban the “alternative” smoking device through the ordinance route, alleging it was a “draconian” step taken in haste to protect the conventional cigarette industry.

Association of Vapers India (AVI), an organisation representing e-cigarette users, also alleged that it is a black day for 11 crore smokers in India who have been deprived of safer options.

There was no immediate reaction from Philip Morris International.

Meanwhile, after the cabinet decision, cigarette stocks gained up to 5.5 per cent with shares of Godfrey Phillips India jumped 5.55 per cent and Golden Tobacco climbed 4.69 per cent on the BSE.

Likewise, VST Industries rose by 3.43 per cent and ITC gained 1.03 per cent.

Quoting reports, Sitharaman said for some youths e-cigarettes were becoming a “style statement” and “some who are probably getting into the habit of e-cigarettes as it seems cool. It is believed that there are more than 400 brands, none of which is manufactured yet in India. And they come in over 150 flavours.”

Asserting that the decision was taken, keeping in mind their impact on the youth of today, she also quoted data, which she claimed was largely derived from the US’ experience, to highlight that there has been a 77.8 percent increase in the use of e-cigarettes among school students and that surprisingly, use of such products by middle school students has also seen a rise of 48.5 percent.

Many Science based journals have already said that nearly 3 million people in US are regular users of e-cigarettes and in a matter of four to five years, between 2011 and 2015-16, there has been over 900 per cent growth in e-cigarettes in US, she said.

During the press briefing on the cabinet decisions, Sitharaman also showed e-cigarettes, which she asserted are easy and simple to use.

“It is believed that there are more than 400 brands, none of which is manufactured yet in India. And they come in over 150 flavours…also it is odourless. As a result somebody who smokes a cigarette will probabely smell even after he throws away the cigarette but with e-cigarettes you don’t even get the odour,” she said.

“But one important aspect, the smoke which is exhaled by the users of e-cigarettes contains very high level of residual nicotine which for people around standing as passive smokers, who accidently inhale, will affect them badly too. So the impact of e-cigarettes although it appears cool, has already cost a lot of concern in the US and many western countries,” she said.

Referring to reports of seven deaths in the US directly linked to e-cigarettes, the minister said many people will say the long term direct impact of e-cigarettes is yet to be scientifically established.

“But the Cabinet rightly thought its time we immediately we took a decision so that the health of our citizens is not thrown to risk,” she said.

The official statement also said unlike the tried and tested nicotine and non-nicotine pharmacotherapies that are known to help people quit tobacco use, the WHO does not endorse e-cigarettes as cessation aids.

Apart from nicotine, e-cigarettes may also be used for delivery of other psychoactive substances, it added.

The possibility of tobacco industry interference in tobacco cessation efforts through misinformation about the potential benefits of these products, which are presented as alternatives but in most cases are complementary to the use of conventional tobacco products, also is a present and real possibility, the statement said.

Widespread use and unchecked proliferation of e-cigarettes and the like devices would seriously undermine and derail Government’s efforts to reduce the prevalence of tobacco use.

Union Health Secretary Preeti Sudan said a debate on whether e- cigarettes and similar products are more harmful than tobacco cigarettes was of little help.

“Why are we debating whether it it more or less harmful…it is a good move to ban it,” she told reporters at the cabinet briefing here.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said it is a preventive step and it is always better to prevent health risks at a later stage of life.

The ordinance will come into force once approved by the President. It will be converted into a bill in the next session of Parliament.

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan is out of the country and was not present in Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting.

Source: Press Trust of India

Will not allow Narendra Modi’s Air India One aircraft to fly over country: Pakistan

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NEW DELHI: Pakistan on Wednesday rejected India’s request to allow Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s VVIP flight to use its airspace for his upcoming visit to the US via Germany, citing “the current situation in Kashmir”.

“India had requested Pakistan to allow Modi to use its airspace to travel to Germany on the 21st (Sept) and return on 28th (Sept),” Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said.

Announcing the decision via a video statement, Qureshi said the Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad had been informed of Pakistan’s decision to not allow prime minister’s Modi’s special Air India One aircraft to fly over the country.

“In the light of the current situation in Kashmir, India’s attitude and atrocities there, we have decided to not allow our airspace for the flight of the Indian prime minister,” he said.

Prime Minister Modi is travelling to the US on September 21 to attend the ‘Howdy Modi’ diaspora event on September 22 along with US President Donald Trump. He will also address the UN General Assembly in New York on September 27.

On September 7, Pakistan refused India’s request to allow President Ram Nath Kovind to use its airspace for his flight to Iceland.

Imran Khan-led government has been under pressure from the Opposition and some ministers to impose ban on India to use its airspace after India revoked special status of Kashmir on August 5.

Tensions between India and Pakistan spiked after India abrogated provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution to withdraw Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and bifurcated it into two union territories, evoking strong reaction from Pakistan.

India has categorically told the international community that the scrapping of Article 370 was an internal matter and also advised Pakistan to accept the reality.

In June, Pakistan “specially” opened its airspace for the flight of Prime Minister Modi to Bishkek to attend the SCO summit. However, India decided not to use the Pakistani airspace for the VVIP aircraft.

Pakistan fully closed its airspace in February after an Indian Air Force strike on a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror camp in Balakot. The country opened its airspace for all flights except for New Delhi, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur on March 27.

On May 15, Pakistan extended its airspace ban for flights to India till May 30. It fully opened its airspace for all civilian traffic on July 16.

Source: Press Trust of India