LONDON - The United Kingdom is ready to host Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi - or any new elected Indian premier after the national polls - for talks amid speculations of a meeting in London on the sidelines of cricket World Cup in the coming weeks, officials here said.

British officials told The Nation that the UK was playing a ‘leading role’ to defuse Pak-India tension.

“We (UK) have been open about it. We want these countries to live together peacefully. If they (Imran Khan and Modi) meet here, we will be happy. We have conveyed this to Pakistan and India,” said an official.

Another official said Pakistan and India had not so far shown any intent for the two PMs meeting. “Our good offices are always open for such positive meetings,” he added.

Indian election trend so far suggests that Narendra Modi will win the election again, albeit with a reduced margin of victory.

He has taken a harsh stance against Pakistan during the election campaign to win hardline right-wing votes but it is hoped that Indian position of brinkmanship will change once the election fever is over and there will be calls from within Indian for constructive dialogue with Pakistan.

Britain plays role to defuse Pak-India tension

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.

Earlier, Imran Khan had said the Bharatiya Janta Party’s attempts to win elections through whipping up war hysteria and false claims of downing a Pakistani F-16 fighter jet had backfired.

He said the US defence officials have also confirmed that no F-16 was missing from Pakistan’s fleet.

He denounced “false claims” made by India’s ruling BJP of downing a Pakistan Air Force’s F-16 fighter jet in February following an intense standoff between armies of both countries.

Pakistan-India ties nose-dived in recent years with no bilateral talks taking place. The nuclear armed neighbours have fought three wars since gaining independence from the British in 1947.

Tensions between Pakistan and India have been high since the killing of a Kashmiri freedom fighter, Burhan Wani, in July 2016. An attack on Indian forces in September 2016 - that killed 19 soldiers in Uri area of held Kashmir - further heightened the tensions. India also claimed it had carried a “surgical strike” to avenge the Uri attack. Pakistan rejected the Indian assertion.

In February, India accused Pakistan of backing the Pulwama attack that killed more than 40 Indian soldiers. The latest confrontation erupted after the suicide bombing on February 14. The attack was allegedly claimed by Jaish-e-Mohammed. Pakistan denied any link

Officials said no plan had been finalised yet but a London visit in June was part of the PM’s plan.

British government officials are keen for both countries to reinitiate contact and take steps for reduction of tension which flared up massively in the last few days after the Pulwama attack.

The new government in India will be in place by that time and Indian officials have indicated that either the new Prime Minister or the the minister for external affairs will visit London to watch the matches.

Reports said that British officials and others working behind the scenes were looking at the possibility of arranging talks between the two sides and have already spoken to relevant authorities in both countries.

Pakistan will be playing England on May 31; England on June 3; Sri Lanka on June 7; Aussies on June 12 and the big match against India will be on June 16. India will be playing South Africa on June 5; Australia on June 5; New Zealand on June 13.