Jindal’s Pak Visit Part of Backchannel Diplomacy

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KARACHI: The Pakistani civilian leadership has informed senior military officials that a recent meeting between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Indian steel magnate Sajjan Jindal — a close friend of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi — was part of backchannel diplomacy between the governments of Pakistan and India, BBC Urdu said in a report on Thursday, according to a report in Dawn.

Away from the media glare, the meeting between Mr Sharif and Mr Jindal — who visited the country with his family members and some friends — was held at the former’s private residence in Murree last month. The meeting fuelled wild speculations after the media broke the news, prompting Maryam Nawaz to tweet that “Mr Jindal is an old friend of the prime minister. Nothing ‘secret’ about the meeting and [it] should not be blown out of proportion”.

The Foreign Office spokesman had claimed his office was unaware about any such meeting.

Quoting important official sources, the BBC Urdu report said that during a recent meeting the prime minister took Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa into confidence about his meeting with Mr Jindal.

According to these sources, Mr Sharif told the military leadership that Mr Jindal had been sent by Indian authorities and that the meeting was an initiative to reduce tension between the two countries.

The report said the military leadership had also taken its senior officers into confidence about the prime minister’s meeting with Mr Jindal. It said that Gen Bajwa had informed army’s senior officers that the meeting was part of backchannel diplomacy between the two countries.

The Sharif-Jindal meeting was held at a time when relations between Pakistan and India were very strained due to a series of ceasefire violations along the Line of Control.

It had triggered intense speculation with some analysts suggesting it could be the precursor to a possible meeting between prime ministers of the two countries in the near future.

According to the report, a close aide of Mr Sharif told the BBC Urdu that the prime minister did not share with his party members the details of his meeting with Mr Jindal. The prime minister just informed them that the Indian steel magnate was making effort for reducing tension between the two countries and that he had taken the military leadership into confidence about his meeting with him.

The report said the military leadership made it clear that the issue of convicted Indian spy, Kulbhushan Jadhav, could not be discussed during any backchannel or diplomatic talks with India.

There was no official comment by the government to confirm or deny the BBC report.

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