Srinagar: Citing close proximity of Jammu and Kashmir with the Central Asian countries, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Saturday expressed hope that the new government in Pakistan will allow international flights originating from Srinagar to fly over its air space.
"One hopes with a new dispensation in Pakistan, one hopes with encouraging voices emerging from new Prime Minister of Pakistan about normalising the relations to some extent between our two countries, perhaps this (use of airspace) is one aspect that can also be normalised," Mr Abdullah said.
He was addressing a conference on 'Cooperation, Development, Peace and Security in Central Asia' at the Kashmir University in Srinagar.
Mr Abdullah said the flight distance between Srinagar and some of the capital cities of Central Asian republics is shorter than the distance between Srinagar and some larger Indian cities.
"Unfortunately, because of the cussed mindset of our neighbour on the western frontier that does not allow a direct flight from Srinagar to overfly their airspace, we have not been able to take advantage of this connect that was available to us," he said.
The chief minister said if Pakistan allows use of its airspace for international flights originating from Srinagar, the Srinagar airport can become an international airport in true sense.
"The international airport at Srinagar that currently exists only on paper, (will) become an international airport in operations as well. And one day, the direct flights to one of these Central Asian countries (will) originate from Srinagar," he added.
Mr Abdullah said Jammu and Kashmir is uniquely placed in the Indian set up to talk about linkages with Central Asia and to, possibly in future, derive advantages from those linkages.
"The policy of Ministry of External Affairs of 'Connect Central Asia' will be ideally suited for J&K because geographically we are the closest, spiritually we have a connect and almost every aspect of life in Kashmir, were you to scratch the surface, you will find a connection between us and Central Asia.
"Our heritage, language, culture, our architecture and the biggest connect is in our religion. Therefore, it is but natural that there will be an affinity between us and Central Asian republics," he added.