Pakistan may close airspace to India: science minister

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ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Prime Minister Imran Khan is considering closing Pakistan’s airspace to India and blocking its eastern neighbour’s land trade route to Afghanistan, the science and technology minister in Islamabad said on Tuesday.

Pakistan reopened its airspace to India in mid-July, having closed it in February after an attack by a Pakistan-based Islamist militant group in Indian-controlled, Muslim-majority Kashmir that led to clashes between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

Bilateral tensions bubbled over again this month when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi government revoked Kashmir’s special status, under which people from the rest of India could not buy property or compete for government jobs.

Since then, stone-throwing protesters have clashed regularly with security forces in the disputed Himalayan region, and the Pakistani army said on Tuesday that Indian army shells had killed a man and a young girl.Pakistan’s Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry said Khan was debating whether to close airspace to India and its land routes to Afghanistan.

“Legal formalities for these decisions are under consideration … Modi has started we’ll finish!” Chaudhry said in a tweet.

Pakistani officials were not immediately available for comment.

After February’s attack, Pakistan and India carried out air strikes on each other’s territory and warplanes fought a dogfight above Kashmir in which an Indian jet was shot down.

The airspace closure forced planes into long detours that cost airlines millions of dollars.

In a move to ease restrictions on Kashmir’s civilian population, the Jammu and Kashmir government said on Tuesday it was reopening high schools from Wednesday in some areas.

Reporting by Asif Shahzad; Editing by Alison WilliamsOur Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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