Meeting with Jindal was part of back-channel diplomacy, PM Sharif tells Pak Army
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Meeting with Jindal was part of back-channel diplomacy, PM Sharif tells Pak Army

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has informed the Pakistan Army that his meeting with Indian businessman Sajjan Jindal was part of “back-channel diplomacy”.

world Updated: May 11, 2017 23:12 IST
Rezaul H Laskar
Rezaul H Laskar
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Sajjan Jindal,Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif,Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa
File photo of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (right) with army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa at the Prime Minister's House in Islamabad on November 26, 2016. (Reuters)

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has informed Pakistan’s powerful army his meeting with Indian steel tycoon Sajjan Jindal was part of “back-channel diplomacy” but the military made it clear that Kulbhushan Jadhav’s case cannot be discussed during such contacts.

BBC Urdu quoted government sources as saying that Sharif had, during a recent meeting, taken army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa into confidence regarding his discussions with Jindal.

Sharif told the military leadership that Jindal had the backing of Indian authorities for the meeting aimed at reducing bilateral tensions, the report said.

However, the army leadership made it clear that the case of Kulbhushan Jadhav, the former Indian Navy officer sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court for alleged espionage, will not be the subject of any back-channel or diplomatic contacts between the two sides.

The military leadership believes Jadhav cannot be part of any “exchange” and his case should be taken to its “logical conclusion” after the completion of legal processes, the report said.

The army has taken senior officers into confidence regarding the meeting between Sharif and Jindal, and Bajwa told his colleagues the meeting was part of back channel diplomacy.

The report said it was unclear if there had been any progress since the meeting between Sharif and Jindal.

Jindal, who reportedly played a key role in facilitating an “hour-long secret meeting” between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sharif on the sidelines of the Saarc Summit in Nepal in 2014, met the Pakistani premier in the resort of Murree on April 26.

The meeting immediately sparked speculation that Jindal may have been involved in efforts to revive the stalled dialogue between the two countries.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office had described the informal meeting as a private affair while Sharif’s daughter had, in a tweet, said Jindal was an “old friend” and dismissed suggestions that the meeting was “secret” in nature.

A leader of the ruling PML-N party considered close to Sharif told BBC Urdu the premier had been tight-lipped about his discussions with Jindal. However, Sharif told his aides that the Indian businessman was trying to reduce bilateral tensions and he had taken the military leadership into confidence about this.

India-Pakistan ties have been at an all-time low following a string of cross-border attacks that were blamed on Pakistan-based terror groups and the death sentence awarded to Jadhav. India approached the Hague-based International Court of Justice this week to stay the execution of Jadhav.

Jindal’s sudden visit to Pakistan sparked speculation that it could have been aimed at facilitating a meeting between Sharif and Modi on the margins of the SCO Summit at Astana in Kazakhstan during June 8-9. Sartaj Aziz, Sharif’s adviser on foreign affairs, told reporters on Wednesday Pakistan will look into the possibility of such a meeting if India shows interest.

First Published: May 11, 2017 22:55 IST