ISLAMABAD   -   Prime Minister Imran Khan yesterday urged his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to realise the goal of peace in the region through “collective endeavours.”

Prime Minister Khan wrote a letter to his Indian counterpart Modi congratulating him on assuming the office as prime minister, officials in Foreign Ministry said.

According to them Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi also addressed a letter to his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar congratulating him 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 that 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 will come across next week at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, but no official meeting has been scheduled.

The two leaders will only have a handshake at the Summit unless they spring a surprise to have a bilateral meeting.

Senior officials at the Foreign Ministry told The Nation that no formal meeting was planned between the two leaders.

“Modi is known for surprises and he can suddenly hug Imran Khan for a meeting but there is nothing scheduled so far. There will of course be handshakes when they get together for the main meeting,” said one official.

He reminded that last month the meeting between Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and then Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj was not planned at the same venue but “it happened.”

Qureshi had held an informal meeting with Sushma Swaraj on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Council of Foreign Ministers moot in Bishkek in May.

“I told Sushma Swaraj that we are still firm on the statement of PM Imran Khan that if India takes one step forward, Pakistan would reciprocate with two,” Qureshi later said.

Condemning terrorism in all its forms, the foreign minister stressed the need for addressing root causes of the curse, saying Pakistan was amongst the few countries which successfully countered terrorism.

Another official said Pakistan is ready for meetings anytime and anywhere. “We are the advocates of dialogue. We are ready to engage in talks at all capitals of the world,” he said, adding a meeting between the two PMs was a still possibility later in London where they will be flying to watch World Cup cricket matches.

India Ministry of External Affairs earlier said no meeting will take place between Narendra Modi and Imran Khan at the sidelines of the SCO Summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

Modi is scheduled to attend the annual SCO Summit in the Kyrgyz capital on June 13-14 where Khan is also expected to be present.

There has not been any meeting between the two leaders since Khan took over as prime minister in August last year.

The Indian government’s decision to invite leaders of the BIMSTEC countries for the swearing-in ceremony of Narendra Modi as prime minister for a second term on May 30 also reflected India’s reluctance to engage with Pakistan even as the external affairs ministry said the invitations were “in line with government’s focus on its ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy”.

Besides India, BIMSTEC or the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation, comprises Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal and Bhutan.

PM Khan, however, had called up Modi to congratulate him on his party’s big victory in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. It was their first telephonic conversation after the Balakot airstrikes.

Pakistan and India have started renewed efforts to resume dialogue after the ice-breaking telephonic contact between Imran Khan and Narendra Modi.

Tensions between the archrivals escalated after a suicide attack in Occupied Kashmir killed at least 42 Indian soldiers.

PM Khan had said Pakistan was ready to cooperate with New Delhi into the investigation of the February 14 suicide bombing.

Amid optimism, Pakistan and India are hopeful of a meeting between the PMs of the two countries in the United Kingdom in the coming weeks.

Imran Khan and the Indian PM are likely to visit London to watch world cup cricket matches in the same week of June this year and there was a strong possibility of both the leaders meeting.

Prime Minister Imran Khan will fly to London on June 12 on a three-day official visit. This would be his first visit to the UK after assuming office last year.

The United Kingdom has already conveyed to Pakistan and India that it was ready to host Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Indian counterpart for talks.

 India releases six Pakistanis

 APP adds: A family of six Pakistanis was released on Friday by Indian authorities. The Indian authorities handed over the family to the Pakistan Rangers officials at Wagah Boarder, Rangers sources said.

They had been identified as Nawab Khan, Shah Jahan, Amir, Azra Bibi, Ishrat Bibi, and a child, Shaista.

Nawab Khan and his family - all residents of Karachi - had travelled to New Delhi where they were arrested upon expiry of their visas last year.