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Pakistan reopens airspace 5 months after deadly feud with India

By Nicholas Sakelaris
Pakistan reopens airspace 5 months after deadly feud with India
Pakistani airspace was closed off in February after separate attacks between the feuding nations. File Photo by Barbara Walton/EPA-EFE

July 16 (UPI) -- Pakistan reopened its airspace to civilian flights Tuesday, five months after Islamabad closed it off over a standoff with neighbor India.

Tensions between the quarrelsome nations escalated in February when India attacked what it said was a terrorist training camp in Pakistani territory. That strike answered a suicide bombing in Kashmir that killed more than 40 Indian soldiers, which was claimed by a Pakistani militant group. Islamabad then retaliated with airstrikes that destroyed at least one Indian fighter jet.

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India's strike on the militant compound was the first time one of its fighters crossed into Pakistani airspace since 1971. Pakistan later returned the pilot who'd been shot down, but both nuclear-armed countries remained guarded.

"With immediate effect, Pakistan airspace is open for all type of aircraft on publish [Air Traffic Service] routes," the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority said late Monday.

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On Tuesday, Flightradar24 showed several flights along newly opened routes over Pakistan.

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For months, the closed airspace forced commercial airlines to fly around Pakistan to reach India, Thailand and other nations in the region. Pakistan opened southern transit routes in April.

Pakistan had refused to re-open its airspace until India agreed to move fighter jets away from air bases on the border. Pakistan did not say Tuesday whether they'd been relocated.

Airlines lost millions of dollars flying the longer routes -- including Air India, which said it lost about $72 million. United Airlines had suspended flights from the United States to Delhi and Mumbai in India until October because of the restrictions.

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