An unannounced meeting between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and a visiting Indian business tycoon at the hill resort town of Murree on Thursday triggered intense speculations in the country with several politicians and analysts suggesting it could be the precursor to a possible meeting between the Pakistani and Indian premiers in the near future.
Sajjan Jindal, who is known for being close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, also has a friendly relationship with Mr Sharif. Some seasoned analysts said that Mr Jindal’s visit could be part of some backchannel contact to improve relations between the two countries.
Informed sources point out that it’s not possible for Mr Jindal to visit Pakistan without prior knowledge of the country’s civilian and military intelligence services.
Former foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri described the controversy stirred up by the visit as unfortunate, saying that just because it was part of some backchannel diplomacy, it should not be rejected outright. In fact, he said, some of the best results were achieved as a result of backchannel contacts.
On the other hand, some opposition politicians were angry over the government’s decision to keep Mr Jindal’s visit as well the PM’s meeting with him secret.
The opposition PTI moved a resolution in the Punjab Assembly expressing grave concern over Prime Minister Sharif’s ‘secret’ meeting with Mr Jindal, the Indian steel magnate.
The meeting was mentioned by a number of TV anchors in broadcasts on Thursday, but there was no official word until the prime minister’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz, tweeted confirmation of the steel tycoon’s visit.
“Mr Jindal is an old friend of the prime minister. Nothing ‘secret’ about the meeting & should not be blown out of proportion. Thank you,” read the tweet.
According to media reports, Mr Jindal and his delegation arrived at Benazir Bhutto International Airport on Wednesday morning, where they were received by the PM’s son Hussain Nawaz and Maryam Nawaz’s son-in-law, Raheel Munir.