Pakistan on Wednesday decided to partially close its airspace for all Indian flights, shutting three out of nine air routes, till September 5. The latest move came hours after Pakistan on Wednesday expelled Indian High Commissioner Ajay Bisaria, minutes after it decided to downgrade the diplomatic ties with India over what it called New Delhi's "unilateral and illegal" move to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Tribune reported that India, on its part, issued security alert to 19 airports and deployed additional security personnel apart from regular deployment at airports.
This was announced after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired a crucial meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC), attended by top civil and military leadership, during which it was also decided to suspend the bilateral trade and review the "bilateral arrangements".
"Our ambassadors will no longer be in New Delhi and their counterparts here will also be sent back," Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said in televised comments soon after the NSC meeting.
Pakistan downgrades diplomatic relations, suspends bi-lateral trade, closes airspace with India over Kashmir. pic.twitter.com/yTd29g52h5— Dillip Mohanty (@dillipodisha) August 7, 2019
Later, the Foreign Office in a statement said that "Pursuant to the decision of the National Security Committee today, the Government of India has been told to withdraw its High Commissioner to Pakistan."
It, however, did not give any time line for India to pull back its envoy.
"The Indian Government has also been informed that Pakistan will not be sending its High Commissioner-designate to India," the statement said.
Pakistan's new High Commissioner Moin-ul-Haq was expected to leave for India this month to take up his responsibilities. India on Monday revoked Article 370 of the Constitution to withdraw the special status given to Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated the state into two Union Territories -- Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
A statement issued after the NSC meeting read that the Committee discussed situation "arising out of unilateral and illegal actions" by the Indian government, situation inside Jammu and Kashmir and along the Line of Control.
The Committee decided "downgrading of diplomatic relations with India" and "suspension of bilateral trade with India," the statement said.
Pakistan will also take the matter (abolition of the Article 370 by India) to the United Nations, including the Security Council, the statement said.
India has said Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and the issue is strictly internal to the country. The statement said that the country will observe this Independence Day on August 14 in solidarity with Kashmiris. "August 15 will be observed as Black Day," it added.
Prime Minister Khan also directed that all diplomatic channels be activated to highlight the alleged human rights violations in the Valley. He directed the military to continue vigilance, the statement said.
The Foreign Minister, Defense Minister, Interior Minister, Advisor on finance, Kashmir Affairs Minister as well as Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Chairman, three services chiefs, ISI chief, and other top officials attended the meeting.
On Tuesday, Khan expressed apprehension that Pulwama-like attacks can follow the revocation of the special status for Jammu and Kashmir, which could trigger a conventional war between Pakistan and India.
India has not been engaging with Pakistan since an attack on the Air Force base at Pathankot in January of 2016 by Pakistan-based terrorists, maintaining that talks and terror cannot go together. Early this year, tensions flared up between India and Pakistan after a suicide bomber of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM) killed 40 CRPF personnel in Kashmir's Pulwama district.
Amid mounting outrage, the Indian Air Force carried out a counter-terror operation, hitting the biggest JeM training camp in Balakot, deep inside Pakistan on February 26.
The next day, Pakistan Air Force retaliated and downed a MiG-21 in an aerial combat and captured Indian pilot, who was handed over to India on March 1.
Earlier, Pakistan fully closed its airspace on February 27 after an IAF strike on a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror camp in Balakot. On March 27, it opened its airspace for all flights except for New Delhi, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. On May 15, Pakistan extended its airspace ban for flights to India till May 30.
As a result of the ban, foreign carriers using Indian airspace have been forced to take costly detours because they could not fly over Pakistan. The closure mainly affects flights from Europe to Southeast Asia. The flights from Europe and the US flying in and out of New Delhi have been the worst hit.
Since Pakistan's airspace closure, the airfare on many routes have gone up significantly, including Delhi-Kabul, Delhi-Moscow, Delhi-Tehran and Delhi-Astana.
Thousands of travellers suffer flight cancellations, delays and soaring ticket prices due to Pakistan's decision to close its airspace for flights to and from India.
Pakistan had given a special permission to India for then External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to fly directly through Pakistani airspace to attend the SCO meet in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on May 21. However, the airspace for other commercial airliners remained closed.
(With PTI inputs)