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Reports Of Pakistan Denying Airspace To IAF Aircraft Carrying Relief Material To Turkey Are Not True

Authors

Pankaj Menon is a fact-checker based out of Delhi who enjoys ‘digital sleuthing’ and calling out misinformation. He has completed his MA in International Relations from Madras University and has worked with organisations like NDTV, Times Now and Deccan Chronicle online in the past.

With a combined death toll of over 15,000, the devastating earthquake that rocked Turkey and Syria earlier this week has left behind a trail of death and destruction. Governments, people and aid organisations from across the world have sprung up to do every small bit they can to help those affected in this hour of need. India is among the several countries that has offered a helping hand to Turkey, sending a medical team, National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) rescue  teams, rescue dogs and essential medicines under the ‘Operation Dost’. 

As of the time of publishing, 6 Indian Airforce Aircrafts carrying the rescue and relief materials have reached Turkey. 

The move was hailed by the Turkish envoy to India, Firat Sunel, as a symbolic gesture that highlighted the deep ties between the two countries. 

In wake of such developments, however, a section of Indian media had a different picture to present, claiming that Pakistan refused airspace to the IAF Aircraft carrying relief materials to Turkey.

One of the reports by FirstPost titled “Indian aircraft with relief materials for Turkey denied airspace by Pakistan” claims that the NDRF plane carrying the relief materials to Turkey was “forced to take a detour after being denied airspace by Pakistan”, but does not mention the source of the information nor does it present any evidence to support the claim. Further, the article refers to this development only in the first paragraph, and just details the latest developments in the subsequent write-up. You can see the archived version of the article here.

Another report, by News 18, titled “Pak Denies Airspace to Indian Plane Carrying NDRF Team, Medical Aid to Earthquake-Hit Turkey,” relays similar information, but unlike FirstPost, attributed the information to sources. 

“Clearances for the particular HADR missions in question were sought for the standard routine which the IAF operators fly on a regular basis,” the sources said…. Indian National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams have already landed at Adana airport with modern drilling equipment, medics and rescue dogs but they had to take a detour because Pakistan denied permission to the flight to use its airspace,” the article read. 

Other Indian media houses also reported along the same line, including One India, Free Press Journal, Zee News and Jagran.

We also received the same claim in Telugu language on our WhatsApp tipline (+91-9999499044) requesting to be fact checked.

Newschecker attempted to fact check this claim. Here’s what we found

Fact check/Verification 

Newschecker began by looking up for more reports that may have cited any credible sources that confirmed that Pakistan had indeed denied permission for NDRF planes carrying relief material to Turkey from flying over the country and came across a report by WION published on February 8, 2023, that revealed that that information was not true. 

“It emerged that Indian planes didn’t fly over Pakistan to reach Ankara. It is believed that the Indian establishment never asked for permission from the Pakistan aviation authorities with regard to sending their military aircraft,” the article states.

We also found another report by Zee News, also published on February 8, 2023, titled “Pakistan Denies Airspace to India’s C-17 Plane Carrying Relief Aid – Report”, which carried a response by the IAF, confirming that the claim was not true. The update in the article read: “The Indian Air Force clarified that as per standard operating procedure, its aircraft have avoided flying over Pakistan. “Our aircraft don’t fly over Pakistan as this is our standard operating procedure. Our planes take a longer route by flying from the Gujarat side to avoid Pakistani air space while going towards Europe or West Asia,” an IAF official said.”

There were also other reports that carried the same clarification by the IAF, clarifying that the path taken by the IAF flights were in tandem with the SOPs and had nothing to do with Pakistan denying airspace. A report on LiveMint titled “IAF aircraft carrying emergency relief for earthquake-hit Turkey, Syria avoids Pak airspace, official says following SOP”, reads “IAF official told ANI that “Our aircraft don’t fly over Pakistan as this is our standard operating procedure. Our planes take a longer route by flying from the Gujarat side to avoid Pakistani air space while going towards Europe or West Asia.”

We also found a tweet by Sidhant Sibal, Diplomatic and Defence correspondent of WION, pointing out that Indian military aircrafts do not fly over Pakistan airspace. 

Another journalist, Ankit Koomar, who works with India Today also pointed out that the flight path showed no indication of flying over Pakistan airspace from the start. 

Newschecker then reached out to the  PRO, NDRF, who confirmed that the IAF aircraft carrying the relief materials progressed to its destination without any obstruction. He also confirmed that the original route did not involve flying over Pakistan airspace.

Newschecker also spoke to sources closely associated with the mission, who confirmed on the condition of anonymity that there was no truth in the claim that Pakistan denied airspace to IAF aircraft carrying relief materials. Further, our source also confirmed that no such permission was sought in the first place as that route was not taken.

Conclusion

The reports by Indian media organisations that the IAF aircraft carrying the relief materials to Turkey was forced to take a detour after Pakistan denied permission to use its airspace, is not true. The IAF and the NDRF has confirmed that the flight route did not involve flying over Pakistan airspace.

Result: False 

Our Sources

Report by WION, dated February 8, 2023
Report by Zee News, dated February 8, 2023
Report by LiveMint, dated February 8, 2023
Tweet by Sidhant Sibal, dated February 8, 2023
Tweet by Ankit Koomar, dated February 8, 2023
Telephone conversation with PRO, NDRF
Telephone conversation with Newschecker source


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Authors

Pankaj Menon is a fact-checker based out of Delhi who enjoys ‘digital sleuthing’ and calling out misinformation. He has completed his MA in International Relations from Madras University and has worked with organisations like NDTV, Times Now and Deccan Chronicle online in the past.

Pankaj Menon
Pankaj Menon
Pankaj Menon is a fact-checker based out of Delhi who enjoys ‘digital sleuthing’ and calling out misinformation. He has completed his MA in International Relations from Madras University and has worked with organisations like NDTV, Times Now and Deccan Chronicle online in the past.

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