New Delhi: India has allowed Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's aircraft to use Indian Air Space to travel to Sri Lanka, reports said.
Imran Khan will be travelling to Sri Lanka on his maiden visit on February 23. Earlier, Sri Lanka had cancelled a scheduled speech of Prime Minister Imran Khan in Parliament, reportedly to avoid confrontation with India.
India allowing Pakistan to use its airspace is a large-hearted gesture as Islamabad had in 2019 denied India to use its airspace for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's flights to the US and Saudi Arabia citing alleged human rights violations in Kashmir.
India took up the denial of permission to VVIP flight with an International Civil Aviation Organisation.
Under normal circumstances, the VVIP aircraft are granted permission by countries. However, Pakistan's denial of permission to VVIP aircraft was an aberration.Pakistan PM Imran Khan's speech before in Sri Lankan Parliament cancelled ahead of visit
Imran Khan's Sri Lanka visit
Khan, who will be the first head of state to visit the country since the COVID-19 pandemic, is to hold talks with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena during the visit.
Earlier, Sri Lanka has cancelled Pakistan Khan’s planned address to its Parliament. It is said that the speech to Parliament had been included in Khan’s itinerary at the Pakistan government''s request. However, it was later cancelled and Sri Lankan media gave various reasons for the cancellation of Khan’s address, Pakistan's Dawn newspaper reported last week.
The address was scheduled for February 24.
According to Sri Lanka’s daily Express, Foreign Secretary Jayanath Colombage said that Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena had requested for the cancellation of Khan's address, citing COVID-19.
Dawn newspaper quoting Sri Lankan media reports that there were elements within the Sri Lankan government, who did not want the speech to take place as they feared that doing so could further harm ties with India, which have already been strained after the cancellation of a deal over the East Container Terminal in Colombo port, Dawn newspaper said.
It was expected that Khan would raise the Kashmir issue during his speech, which could have upset Delhi, it said.
Another speculation doing the rounds is that the Sri Lankan government was concerned about Khan speaking about the rights of Muslims in Sri Lanka, who have faced abuses at the hands of Buddhist majority, rising anti-Muslim sentiments, and biased government actions.
The Sri Lankan government had made compulsory cremation rule for those dying from COVID-19, enraging the Muslim community in the country.
The government, however, earlier this month exempted the Muslims from cremation and allowed them to bury their dead after a global outcry over the issue.
Khan had welcomed the Sri Lankan government’s decision.
The Pakistan Prime Minister’s visit, scheduled a month after Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s three-day visit to Colombo, will coincide with the 46th UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva, where a new resolution on Sri Lanka is likely to be adopted.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had addressed Sri Lanka's Parliament in 2015.
(With inputs from agencies)