ISLAMABAD  -   Pakistan is likely to allow Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to fly over the country on way to Kyrgyzstan where he will attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit this week, officials said on Sunday.

India earlier requested Pakistan to let Prime Minister Modi’s aircraft fly over its airspace to Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan on June 13.

Senior officials at the foreign ministry told The Nation said that Modi’s request was being ‘seriously considered’ and there could be a ‘positive decision’ soon. “This is something we are not going to deny as we are trying to cool down the atmosphere. The request has come from the (Indian) PM and we are unlikely to turn it down. We have come up with so many goodwill gestures in the recent past to defuse tension in the region,” said one official.

Another official said that Prime Minister Imran Khan, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and the military leadership agree that “this (allowing airspace) is not a big deal.”

Pakistan had fully closed its airspace on February 26 after an attempted Indian Air Force attack in Balakot. Since then, Pakistan has only opened two routes, both of them pass through southern Pakistan, of the total 11.

Over the weekend, an Indian official in New Delhi said: “We have requested Pakistan to let the PM’s plane fly over its airspace through one of the routes that has not been opened as yet. The PM has to attend the SCO meet on June 13 and June 14.”

Pakistan had given special permission to India’s then external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj to fly directly through Pakistani airspace to attend the SCO Foreign Ministers’ meet in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on May 21.

Apart from the two routes through southern Pakistan, the neighbouring country’s airspace remains closed for commercial airliners.

The IAF announced on May 31 that all temporary restrictions imposed on Indian airspace post the Balakot airstrike had been removed. However, it was unlikely to benefit any commercial airliners unless Pakistan reciprocates and opens its complete airspace.

Last week, Prime Minister Imran Khan urged Modi to realise the goal of peace in the region through “collective endeavours.” Foreign ministry officials said that “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 the assumption of offices.

“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.

Monitoring Desk adds: The closure of Pakistan’s airspace to commercial flights between Kabul and New Delhi has decreased Afghanistan’s exports to India by 30 percent, an official of Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI), a key stakeholder of the private sector, said, reported ToloNews.

Afghanistan exports dry fruit, vegetables, fresh fruit, carpets and handicrafts to India, according to officials. Pakistan closed its airspace to all commercial flights late in February after escalating tensions with India. The airspace was opened to certain flights but it is yet to be opened for Afghan flights en route to India.

Afghan airliners are using Iran and China routes for Kabul-Delhi flights which according to airline companies is expensive and time-consuming.

Mir Zaman Popal, head of ACCI’s exports department, said Afghan farmers and investors will bear the brunt of the airspace closure if it remains closed during the vegetable and fruit harvesting season.

“Closure of Pakistan’s airspace to Afghan flights is a serious matter and we know that the challenges will increase if the situation prevails,” Popal said.

Last month, Pakistan said its airspace on its eastern border with India will remain closed until June 14.

While Prime Minister Imran Khan promised President Ashraf Ghani on the sidelines of the 14th summit of the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation in Saudi Arabia to resolve the airspace problem, but so far, nothing has happened in this regard, said the TV channel.

A spokesman of the Afghan Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Samir Rasa, said the country’s exports through air corridors will increase this year, but he did not comment on airspace problem.

Critics said the Afghan government should invest in land trade routes besides its efforts to establish more air routes between Afghanistan and other countries.