ISLAMABAD - Pakistan yesterday rejected India’s request to allow Prime Minister Narendra Modi to use its airspace for his United States visit.

India had sent a formal request to Pakistan to allow the use of its airspace for the Indian Prime Minister’s upcoming US visit on September 21-27.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that the country will not allow Modi plane to pass through its airspace, adding the decision had been taken keeping in view the “situation in occupied Kashmir.”

In a video message, he said: “There was a request from India that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to go to Germany and seeks to use the airspace for an over-flight on September 20 and wishes to use the same for a return flight on September 28.”

He added: “Keeping in view the situation in occupied Kashmir and India’s tyrant attitude and the violations of rights, we have decided not to accept the request.” The decision has been conveyed to the Indian High Commission in Islamabad.

On September 8 last, Pakistan had refused a request by India to allow Indian President Ram Nath Kovind to fly through its airspace towards Iceland due to New Delhi’s recent “behaviour.”

In February, Pakistan had closed its airspace to Indian traffic when Indian air force violated its airspace along the Line of Control. It reopened its skies for all civilian traffic in July, ending months of restrictions affecting major international routes. The ban was again imposed after India merged held Kashmir into its union.

The latest decision came amid heightened tensions between the two neighbours over the disputed region of Kashmir. Both Pakistan and India claim Kashmir in full, but administer separate portions. The nuclear-armed South Asian neighbours have fought two of their three wars over the region, and their forces regularly exchange fire across a 740-kilomtere Line of Control.

On August 5, India’s Hindu nationalist government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi revoked a special constitutional status accorded to held Kashmir, imposing a communications blackout and deploying thousands of troops to the Muslim-majority state, where a revolt has been ongoing for 30 years.

Amid a strict lockdown, hundreds of activists and political leaders, including three former chief ministers, have been detained by the occupant Indian authorities in recent weeks.

Islamabad responded by downgrading its diplomatic ties with India in August, expelling the its envoy, suspending trade and calling back its ambassador in a deepening row over New Delhi’s clampdown in its portion of Kashmir.

It also called for the international community to intervene and vowed to take the matter to the United Nations Security Council. New Delhi insists that the dispute over the territory is an internal matter and maintains it can only be resolved bilaterally with Pakistan.

Last month, Prime Minister Imran Khan had successfully appealed for a UN Security Council meeting but no conclusion was drawn at the meeting. India has maintained that the Kashmir constitutional change was an internal matter and that the region was gradually heading to normal situations after a clampdown.

Telephone lines, internet services were cut while a curfew was implemented with troops securing the area. Leaders were detained from leaving or entering the region. Recently, Indian lawmaker and former Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and a delegation were sent back from Srinagar to Delhi, with authorities citing reasons of ‘maintaining peace and normalcy.’

Pakistan slammed India for portraying “a totally false impression of normalcy” in occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

The foreign ministry said Indian claims were designed to mislead the world. “Pakistan categorically rejects Indian attempts, including the recent briefing by the Indian National Security Advisor, seeking to portray a totally false impression of normalcy in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir,” said a statement released by the foreign office.

It added: “Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir continues to be the largest prison in the world with the heaviest deployment of Indian occupation forces since the coercive, unilateral and illegal Indian actions of 5 August 2019 aimed at altering the internationally recognized disputed status of IOJ&K (Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir) and changing its demographic structure to pre-empt the results of a UN plebiscite. Despite Indian claims, curfew continues.”