Nawaz Sharif tells Pakistan Army chief his meeting with Sajjan Jindal was back-channel diplomacy

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has told the country's powerful army that his meeting with Indian steel tycoon Sajjan Jindal last month was part of back-channel diplomacy, a media report said on Thursday.

BBC Urdu reported that Sarif has taken Pakistan Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa into confidence on his meeting with Jindal on 27 April at the hill resort of Murree.

File image of Sajjan Jindal. Reuters

File image of Sajjan Jindal. Reuters

The civilian leadership informed the military authorities that Sharif's hour-long meeting with Jindal was a part of back-channel diplomacy. And Jindal had the backing of some important Indian officials for the meeting to defuse ongoing tension between the two countries, the report said.

India-Pakistan ties are strained over a series of cross-border terror attacks in India and over the death sentence to Jadhav. India has denied Pakistan's allegations and maintained that Jadhav was kidnapped by Pakistani intelligence agencies.

The report quoting a ruling PML-N leader said Sharif was tight-lipped on his meeting with Jindal.

However, the only detail of the meeting he shared with his aides was that Jindal was making efforts to defuse tension between India and Pakistan.

It said the military leadership also took its officers into confidence on the meeting. General Bajwa told his officers that the meeting was a part of a back-channel diplomacy.

The Sharif-Jindal meeting had triggered intense speculation with several politicians and analysts, suggesting it could be the precursor to a possible meeting between the two premiers in the near future.

Pakistan prime minister's adviser on foreign affairs Adviser Aziz told reporters on Wednesday that if India shows interest, Pakistan will look into the possibility of a meeting between Sharif and Modi on the sidelines of the SCO summit on 8-9 June at Astana in Kazakhstan.

Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf had moved a resolution in the Punjab Assembly expressing concern over the "secret" meeting. It had also alleged that Jindal conveyed Modi's "message" to Sharif on the death penalty to Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav on spying charges.

Jindal is said to be the man who had arranged a meeting between Modi and Sharif in Lahore on 25 December in 2015 on Sharif's birthday and the day when Sharif's granddaughter Mehr-un-Nisa was married.

Journalist Barkha Dutt in her book This Unquiet Land: Stories from India's Fault Lines had also claimed that Jindal had in 2014 facilitated a secret and deniable hour-long meeting between Modi and Sharif in his hotel room in Kathmandu on the sidelines of the SAARC summit, The Economic Times had reported.

The report also talked about how Sharif had reportedly visited Jindal's home for tea when he had gone to Delhi for Modi's swearing-in ceremony.

However, an article in Firstpost had questioned the role of Jindal's involvement in international diplomacy, saying that his role would have been much smaller than what was portrayed by the media.

With inputs from PTI

Updated Date: May 12, 2017 14:37 PM

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