ISLAMABAD - Pakistan and India are “considering” a bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Indian counterpart in Russia early September on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, official sources said on Sunday.

Prime Minister Imran Khan will be going on an official visit to Russia in September. He accepted an invitation from Russian President Vladimir Putin to attend the EEF. The prime minister is expected to visit Russia from September 4 to 6. Indian PM Narendra Modi will also be in the city at that time.

Senior officials at the foreign ministry told The Nation that there had been a ‘diplomatic discussion’ with India regarding a possible meeting between the two PMs.

“There is still time (for the Russian visit). This (the meeting) is being considered. Russia also wants Pakistan and India to remove misunderstandings and improve ties. We are very clear. We want to meet them (India) anywhere they like. It is for India to decide when they are ready,” said one official.

Both PMs to be in Vladivostok in September for EEF

He said that a meeting between Imran Khan and Modi will definitely be ‘productive’ for peace in the region. “We have been struggling to convince them (India) that dialogue is the only way (to resolve bilateral issues),” he added. Another official said that India had been running away from the dialogue process but Pakistan will never shun this option. “Whenever we have contact with the Indian aside (through the diplomatic channels or meetings) we emphasise the importance of dialogue,” he remarked.

Last month, India had sent a ‘positive reply’ to Pakistan after Prime Minister Khan and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi wrote congratulatory letters to their counterparts on assuming offices following the general elections.

In June, PM Khan had urged Narendra Modi to realise the goal of peace in the region through “collective endeavours.”

The foreign ministry earlier said “in line with established diplomatic norms and inter-state practice,” PM Khan and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi addressed letters to PM Modi and Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, congratulating them on assumption of office.

“The letters underscored Pakistan’s consistent policy of peaceful neighbourhood and the vision of working for durable peace and stability in South Asia with peaceful resolution of all outstanding issues, including Kashmir dispute,” said an official.

He said the Pakistani leaders emphasised the need to work together, on the basis of mutual respect and trust, to address challenges faced by people of both the countries, including poverty and underdevelopment.  “The need to advance the goals of regional peace, progress and prosperity through collective endeavours was underscored,” he added.

PM Khan and Modi came across last month at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan but no official meeting took place. The two leaders did shake hands. There has not been any official meeting between the two leaders since Khan took over as prime minister of Pakistan in August last year. India has not been engaging with Pakistan following the attack on the Air Force base at Pathankot in January of 2016, maintaining that talks and terror cannot go together.