New Delhi: New Delhi Thursday said it has “processed and approved” the landing of a Japanese commercial flight in Mumbai to carry humanitarian aid for war-torn Ukraine, and also granted permission to Japanese Self-Defense Forces (SDF) aircraft to overfly India. But the SDF aircraft cannot land in India.
“We had received a request from Japan for permission to land in Mumbai to pick up humanitarian supplies from UNHCR depot for Ukraine and its neighbouring countries. We have conveyed our approval for picking of such supplies from India using commercial aircraft,” Arindam Bagchi, spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, said Thursday.
“We had also received a request for overflight clearance for Japanese SDF (Self-Defense Force) aircraft carrying humanitarian cargo for Ukraine. This was processed and approved as per established norms,” Bagchi added.
The clarification came after a Japanese government official from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party reportedly said India has refused to let the SDF flight land in India, forcing Tokyo to change its plan.
According to local media reports, the Japanese government decided to send an SDF flight and not a commercial flight because that was the demand made by the Ukraine government.
However, India believes it cannot allow a military aircraft to land in the country since this would entail security issues. But it is open to permitting a commercial flight from Japan to pick up the aid from India, and then have it sent to the required destination, sources told ThePrint.
The flight is supposed to pick up the aid, currently piled up in the UNHCR’s India depot, and then travel to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the same reason, before delivering it to Ukraine’s neighbours Poland and Romania.
The Japanese cabinet was to approve the plan this week.
When asked about the Japanese government official’s comment, Bagchi said, “I am hesitant to comment on somebody else’s comments that I might not have fully seen”.
According to sources in the Ministry of Defence, such permissions are given by the MEA, unless it is “defence-to-defence dealing”.
Sources also said the defence ministry has no role to play in giving or not giving permission for any kind of incoming military or commercial aircraft for humanitarian purposes.
The Japanese government decided to send SDF aircraft earlier this week. According to the plan, C2 transport planes or other SDF aircraft will be flying out with aid for Ukraine once every week starting this month. Tokyo has decided to send 10 such flights.
Japan and India are partners in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (commonly known as the ‘Quad’) along with the US and Australia. Tokyo is expected to hold the next round of the Quad Summit on 24 May.
With inputs from Snehesh Alex Philip
(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)