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He spoke of peace, was an emotional moment: Navjot Singh Sidhu on hugging Pak army chief

Navjot Singh Sidhu, who was in Pakistan to attend the swearing-in of Pakistan’s new prime minister Imran Khan, said his visit was not politically motivated. At the ceremony, he was seen hugging army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

india Updated: Aug 21, 2018 18:06 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Sidhu,Navjot Singh Sidhu,PoK chief
Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu waves as he crosses the border to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Pakistan prime minister-elect Imran Khan, at Attari-Wagah border in Attari on August 17, 2018. Sidhu, facing criticism for hugging Pakistan’s army chief said on Tuesday the gesture was made in an “emotional moment.”(PTI)

Congress leader and Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, facing criticism for hugging Pakistan’s army chief and visiting the neighbouring country, said on Tuesday the gesture was made in an “emotional moment” and that his trip was not politically motivated.

“Pakistan army chief said they were making efforts to open corridor to Kartarpur Sahib, what followed was an emotional moment,” Sidhu told reporters.

The Bharatiya Janata Party said that there are the people within the Congress party who are trying to promote the interests of Pakistan in India after Sidhu’s conference.

“It’s sad that Navjot Sidhu has somewhat tried to implicate India in all this by saying Indians have small hearts. We condemn this,” the ruling party’s spokesperson Sambit Patra said.

“We want an answer on this not from Sidhu ji but from Rahul ji. Is Rahul ji trying to run a parallel government?” he asked.

The BJP had earlier slammed Sidhu’s visit to Pakistan to attend Imran Khan’s oath-taking ceremony last Saturday, especially his hug with Pakistan army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa, as “shameful”.

Sidhu’s boss Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh said on Sunday he was “not in favour” of Sidhu hugging General Bajwa. He also clarified that Sidhu’s decision to attend Khan’s oath-taking ceremony nothing to do with his government, and said the cricketer-turned-politician had gone there in his personal capacity.

“Many people from Congress have spoken on this, including Captain Sahab. It’s a democracy and everyone has the right to their opinion,” Sidhu said.

The Punjab minister said his visit was also a tribute to former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who led a peace process with Pakistan, and that goodwill gestures are important for peace and prosperity between the two countries.

“Efforts for peace have been made in the past as well. The late Vajpayee ji had taken the ‘dosti bus’ to Lahore and invited (former Pakistan president Pervez) Musharraf. Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi invited Nawaz Sharif to his oath-taking ceremony. He also went to Lahore without a plan,” Sidhu added.

He pointed out that Modi hugged the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif during his unscheduled visit to Lahore. “No one is questioning PM Modi,” he said.

“I received the invitation from Pakistan ten times and then I sought a permission from Indian government but I didn’t get it and was waiting. Two days after the Pakistan government gave me a visa, (external affairs minister) Sushma Swaraj ji called me in the night and said that I have been given permission,” he said.

(With agency inputs)

First Published: Aug 21, 2018 13:54 IST