India's version of FHM magazine has defended the cover of its latest issue which shows a nude Pakistani actress with the initials of Pakistan's powerful intelligence agency displayed on her arm.
The magazine's December issue has yet to hit news stands. But a preview of the cover on its website triggered a media frenzy which intensified when actress Veena Malik denied posing nude and accused FHM of doctoring her image. The editor of FHM India,
Kabeer Sharma, told AFP at the weekend that he was mystified by Malik's allegations.
"Maybe she is facing some kind of backlash, so maybe that's why she is denying it.
"We have not photoshopped or faked the cover. This is what she looks like, she has an amazing body," Sharma said.
While Malik's pose preserves a scant degree of modesty, any nudity is still very much frowned upon in conservative India -- and indeed in Muslim-majority Pakistan.
What has raised more eyebrows was her arm sporting the initials ISI -- the acronym for Inter Services Intelligence, Pakistan's spy agency.
Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan have gone to war three times and the ISI has been routinely accused by New Delhi of masterminding militant attacks on Indian soil.
Sharma said the idea had been to take an ironic swipe at India's obsession with the ISI. A tag line on the cover which points to the initials, reads: "Hand in the end of the world too?"
"People, especially young people in both countries, want to move past this kind of thinking," the editor said.
"It's a very powerful picture -- it took a lot of guts for her to do that. It shows a powerful, sexy woman not afraid to speak her mind."
Malik is already known in India for appearing on "Big Boss", the country's version of the television reality show "Big Brother".
Speaking to Pakistan's Geo TV on Saturday, Malik insisted the nude photos were faked.
"I agreed to a photo shoot and having an ISI tattoo in a humorous way but I did not have any nude photos. My pictures have been morphed," she said.
Sharma responded on his Twitter site Monday, saying he would release a series of photos from the shoot proving his version of the story.