Islamabad: Steel tycoon Naveen Jindal’s brother Sajjan “secretly” met with Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday, reported Pakistani media, adding that in meeting at Murree, the Indian violated the terms of his Pakistani visa.
The meeting, which set off speculation in the neighbouring country’s media that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was using “back channels” to arrange talks with Pakistan, is now under a bigger and darker cloud over the visa issue. Jindal is chairman and managing director of JSW Steel.
Pakistani media speculated further that the meeting “was part of back-channel diplomacy to arrange a meeting between the Pakistani and Indian prime ministers on the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit” to be held in June in Astana, Kazakhstan, as The Express Tribune wrote.
Pakistan’s Samaa TV, which said it accessed Jindal’s travel documents, revealed that the Modi aide was exempt from police repotring in Lahore. Not just that, he then violated his visa to meet the Pakistani PM at his residence in the hill town of Murree.
“The Indian steel magnate headed straight to Murree upon arrival in Pakistan even though his visa did not specify that he could travel to the hill station… Jindal’s visa, bearing the number 769903, issued on April 25, 2017 allowed the holder to visit only Islamabad and Lahore,” wrote another Pakistani newspaper, The Express Tribune.
At first yesterday, Pakistan’s foreign office spokesman claimed his office was unaware about any such meeting. Later, as almost everyone got wind of it, Sharif’s daughter confirmed the meeting between “old friends” Jindal and her father, but said nothing about where it was held.
Pakistan’s Express Tribune also called Jindal a sort of “facilitator”.
“A common friend of Nawaz and Modi, Jindal is thought to be an interlocutor or, at times, a facilitator in some meetings between the two heads of government during the past three years,” it wrote today.
Recently, senior government officials and diplomats told the newspaper that a meeting between Modi and Sharif, soon, is “very much possible” and at the SCO meet in Kazakhstan.
Bilateral tensions between the two neighbours have been higher than ever after a Pakistani military court sentenced Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav to death “because he was an Indian spy”.
Still, the two countries’ Prime Ministers may well meet on the sidelines of the SCO meet because “influential countries in the SCO are pushing Pakistan and India to re-engage so as to ensure that the next summit is held in a conducive environment,” a senior Pakistani diplomat told the newspaper 10 days ago.
The SCO includes Russia, China, Central Asian States, Pakistan and India. Pakistan and India are set to become full members of the SCO in the upcoming conference in June.
In fact, the two sub-continental countries were admitted to the SCO on the condition they work together to improve their bilateral ties as well as promote the interest of the organization
“That was one of the main reasons that both Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi met in Ufa, Russia at the sidelines of SCO summit in 2015,” wrote the Tribune.
In the meanwhile, the meeting between Sharif and Jindal has given more ammunition to the opposition in Pakistan against Sharif.
“Given that this is yet another meeting held at a high level without the knowledge of the FO (foreign office), it is high time that the people of Pakistan are taken into confidence about what transpires in such meetings,” said opposition PPP senator Sherry Rehman.