'Old friend' of PM Nawaz Sharif triggers new row in Pakistan

S V Krishnamachari
jsw steel chairman sajjan jindal, sajjan jindal meet nawaz sharif, indo pakistan relations, kulbhushan jadhav sentenced to death, indian spies in pakistan

When an "old friend" from a country meets the Prime Minister of a hostile neighbour, it is bound to raise eyebrows.

The "old friend" is none other than the man in the picture above, Indian industrialist and chairman of the JSW Steel Sajjan Jindal, and the Prime Minister is Pakistan's Nawaz Sharif.  

However, in the context of the estranged neighbours coming to a near diplomatic face-off over Pakistan alleging a captured former Naval officer as an "Indian spy" and sentencing him to death, the visit has triggered a row in Pakistan.

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Jindal,  believed to be a common friend of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif, met the Pakistani prime minister at Murree on Wednesday.

Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua, who led the FO team at the Muree meeting, did not respond to the National Assembly's Foreign Affairs Committee on Friday, reported the Dawn, a Pakistani daily.

Jindal's visit coincided with the Indian envoy Gautam Bambawale's appeal filed with the Pakistan foreign office against the death sentence given to Kulbhushan Jadhav on the basis of questionable court hearing that concluded he was an "Indian spy". 

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Nawaz Sharif's daughter Maryam Sharif tried to play down Jindal's visit, amid the controversy.

Both Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek Insaaf (PTI) questioned the Nawaz Sharif government's silence over the visit.

"Why is the government quiet over Jindal's visit?" asked PPP's Nafeesa Shah during the Foreign Affairs Committee's meeting, accorrding to the Dawn.

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The PTI raised the issue of propriety if the visit was not an official one. "If Jindal had come on a private visit, why did FO officials receive him?" asked Shireen Mazari, besides questioning how Jindal could visit Murree when his visa was restricted to Islamabad and Lahore. 

jsw steel chairman sajjan jindal, sajjan jindal meet nawaz sharif, indo pakistan relations, kulbhushan jadhav sentenced to death, indian spies in pakistan