India and China discussed ways to better establish understanding to manage airspace and avoid airspace violations along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). This was discussed during the routine Confidence Building Measures (CBM) talks on the ground in eastern Ladakh.
- India has strongly objected to the recent airspace violations and breach of Confidence-Building Measures (CBM) by China during a special round of military talks between the two countries.
- In the last two years, China has systematically upgraded all its major air bases facing India like Hotan, Kashgar, Gargunsa and Shigatse.
- India, on its part, is keeping all its airbases facing the northern borders on a high operational alert.
What is Airspace?
- Airspace, in international law, is the space above a particular national territory, treated as belonging to the government controlling the territory.
- It does not include outer space, which, under the Outer Space Treaty (1967), is declared to be free and not subject to national appropriation.
- The treaty, however, did not define the altitude at which outer space begins and air space ends.
Chicago Convention and ICAO –
- In 1944, Chicago Convention was held which led to the formation of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
- This convention also led to the establishment of the core principles permitting international transport by air.
- ICAO is a United Nations (UN) specialised agency which laid the foundation for the standards and procedures for peaceful global air navigation.
- India is one of the ICAO’s founder members.
- ICAO headquarters is located in Montreal, Canada.
Airspace Sovereignty –
- The Chicago Convention’s first Article recognises that every State has complete and exclusive sovereignty over the airspace above its territory.
- The Convention does not define the terms ‘national airspace’ and ‘international airspace’ per se.
- Without an explicit agreement, airlines running scheduled passenger services have no right to fly over foreign territory.
- Incoming aircraft need to obtain prior clearance to enter Indian air space and the entry points are predefined.
- The Indian Air Force (IAF) is the sole designated agency for the defence of Indian air space.
Confidence building measures –
- Between 1993 and 2012, a set of confidence building measures (CBMs) were agreed upon by India and China to maintain peace between the two countries.
- Some of the key measures include –
- In a face-off situation neither side shall use force or threaten to use force against the other;
- Both sides shall treat each other with courtesy and refrain from any provocative actions;
- Neither side shall put up marks or signs on the spots;
- If the border personnel of the two sides come to a face-to-face situation due to differences on the alignment of the LAC, they shall exercise self-restraint and take all necessary steps to avoid an escalation of the situation.
- Both sides shall avoid holding large scale military exercises involving more than one Division (approximately 1 5,000 troops) in close proximity of the LAC.
- No military aircraft of either side shall fly across the LAC, except by prior permission.
- Neither side shall open fire, cause bio-degradation, use hazardous chemicals, conduct blast operations or hunt with guns or explosives within two kilometres from the LAC.
- Maintain and expand the regime of scheduled and flag meetings between their border representatives at designated places along the LAC.