Chandigarh, Aug 21 (IANS) Slamming those who criticised him for hugging the Pakistan Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, Punjab Cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu on Tuesday said that no one had raised questions about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s unscheduled visit to Pakistan.
Defending his visit, he said: “My visit was not about politics but on a warm invite from an old friend. Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had travelled on the bus to Lahore and Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an unscheduled trip to Lahore in 2015, on his way back from an official visit to Afghanistan.”
During that surprise stopover, Modi had hugged then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, he said.
“No one is questioning Prime Minister Modi,” he added.
Sidhu said his seating at the swearing-in ceremony of Imran Khan as Pakistan’s Prime Minister in Islamabad on August 18 was changed at the last minute and he did not know who sat next to him.
He was responding to the criticism for sitting next to Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir President Masood Khan at the ceremony.
Without mincing words, he said his visit to Pakistan was a tribute to Vajpayee, who wanted peace between the two countries.
Sidhu said he received a lot of love and affection in Pakistan and was disappointed by some of the reactions in India. He said he had received the invitation for the ceremony 10 times.
Sidhu said he went to Pakistan at the invitation and repeated reminders from Khan.
“Even our government gave permission to me to visit Pakistan. Two days after Pakistan gave him the visa, our External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj called me and said that I had been given permission (to go),” Sidhu said.
Two days earlier Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said Sidhu’s hug with Bajwa was “not a nice gesture and was completely avoidable”.
Sidhu should have avoided indulging in such a gesture when Indian soldiers are getting killed everyday on the borders, the Chief Minister told reporters here.
At this Sidhu replied: “I was criticised by the Captain (Amarinder Singh), by top Congress leaders. It is not necessary that if the Captain has spoken against me, I should too.”
“Many people from Congress have spoken on this, including Captain Sahab. It’s a democracy and everyone has the right to have an opinion,” Sidhu said.