Can’t intervene in Pak. denial of airspace: ICAO

The United Nations aviation watchdog, International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), is “not empowered to intervene” in the affairs of a country and will examine inputs from both India and Pakistan before it takes a decision to pursue the issue of denial of overflight to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s aircraft during his recent visit to Saudi Arabia, its spokesperson said. The response is significant because Mr. Modi will fly to Brazil for the BRICS summit on November 13 and 14, when the government’s decision to apply for overflight permission again will come under scrutiny. Info sought Nevertheless, following India’s representation last month, president of ICAO Council Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu has written to Pakistan, seeking information. “The United Nations and other multilateral agencies … are neither designed nor empowered to intervene directly in the affairs of national governments, which is why States are still ‘sovereign’ in the world today,” Anthony Philbin, Chief, Communications at ICAO told The Hindu in an e-mail interview. Focus on civil aviation “Our goal in such matters as always is to help assure the safety and efficiency of international civil aviation,” Mr. Philbin said about the ICAO’s exchange with the two countries. The emphasis on civil aviation is significant and raises questions about the grounds on which India had sought the Organisation’s intervention. Article 3 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation signed at Chicago on December 7, 1944, clearly states that the treaty “shall be applicable only to civil aircraft, and shall not be applicable to State aircraft.” The treaty also underlines in Article 1 that signatories to the convention have to recognise that “every State has complete and exclusive sovereignty over the airspace above its territory.” An e-mail to the Representative of India at the ICAO, Shefali Juneja, for information on the grounds on which India approached the UN body remained unanswered till the time of going to print. The spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), though, has called Pakistan’s decision to deny permission a deviation “from well established international practice”.

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