Indian steel tycoon Sajjan Jindal is reported to have held a secret meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif setting off speculation that the nuclear-armed neighbours are attempting to ease tensions.
Jindal, who is known to have cordial relations with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, led a three-member business delegation on an unannounced visit to Pakistan on Thursday, 27 April. Observers are keenly watching the situation and speculate that this could even lead to talks between the two prime ministers.
Jindal, chairman of JSW Steel, enjoys a friendly relationship with Sharif as well and had discussions on undisclosed topics in the hill resort town of Murree. It is considered highly unlikely that Jindal would have made the trip without the knowledge of the top echelons of the Indian government and intelligence.
Nothing has so far been officially shared about the discussions but analysts suspect this could be a possible start of backchannel diplomacy between India and Pakistan.
Some reports claimed that Jindal played a pivotal role in arranging a last-minute visit by Modi to Pakistan in 2015 on Christmas Day, which happens to be Sharif's birthday too. The Indian government dismissed such claims.
Though the Pakistani administration was tight-lipped about the meeting, it was forced to issue a confirmation after details about the discussions emerged in media. "Mr Jindal is an old friend of the prime minister. Nothing 'secret' about the meeting and [it] should not be blown out of proportion," Sharif's daughter Maryam Nawaz wrote on Twitter.
However, opposition parties have condemned the administration for what they see as encouragement to backchannel talks with New Delhi. "In these circumstances, Narendra Modi's close aides' (Mr Jindal) meeting with [the] Pakistani prime minister has sent a wave of restlessness among [the] masses," a resolution submitted by the opposition leader in Punjab assembly, Mian Mahmoodur Rasheed, said.
Tensions between India and Pakistan are at a new high after a spate of violent incidents in Kashmir which is claimed by both India and Pakistan. Of the three wars India and Pakistan have fought since their independence from Britain, two were due to the territorial dispute over Kashmir.