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Sidhu's Hug; Pak Has Last Laugh

While the Congress is in a quandary on how to deal with the on-going outcry over the recent visit of Navjot Singh Sidhu to Pakistan, it has turned out to be a lump in the throat of the BJP too

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Across-the-border politics by the Congress appears to have boomeranged. At the same time, it does not augur well for the ruling BJP at the Centre. While the Congress is in a quandary on how to deal with the on-going outcry over the recent visit of cricketer-turned-politician and minister in the Congress-led Government in Punjab, Navjot Singh Sidhu to Pakistan, it has turned out to be a lump in the throat of the BJP too.

Sidhu, who is accused of defying India’s policy to isolate Pakistan, has put the BJP in a fix with confiding the motive behind his embrace of Pakistan’s Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa during the swearing-in ceremony of the newly-elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan. In a statement to a national TV channel, Sidhu claimed that the Army Chief apprised him of Pakistan’s initiative to restore peace with India prompting him to hug the former. Sidhu claimed that the Army Chief was of the view that Pakistan wished to have peace and it had initiated steps.

The Army Chief is said to have informed Sidhu that Pakistan had resolved to open the corridor to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur on account of the 550th birth anniversary of the founder of the Sikh religion, Guru Nanak in 2019. The shrine is believed to be the final resting place of Guru Nanak. The Army General is said to have claimed that they would even think of doing better things.

In the backdrop of abortive attempts to open the corridor in 1998, Sikh groups in India have been impressing upon the BJP government to hold talks with Pakistan to open the corridor during next year's celebrations. They contended that the two governments had agreed to open a corridor to the shrine just two-three km from the India-Pakistan border in 1998 but it was never implemented.

Incidentally, the ball is now in the court of the Government. It is believed that the ruling BJP can neither afford to ignore the pro-Sikh initiative by Pakistan nor can it implicitly endorse Sidhu’s credentials by lauding Pakistan’s initiative.

If the Government prefers to ignore the initiative made by Pakistan to restore peace at the border by opening the corridor, it is likely to stand condemned in the eyes of the beneficiaries and if it succumbs to the demand to reciprocate Pakistan’s gesture in the light of Sidhu’s visit, it would concede its failure to evolve an amicable solution of the issue that was kept in abeyance over the years. 

Incidentally, the Congress party has preferred to remain silent over the controversy and Chief Minister of Punjab, Captain Amarinder Singh, in particular, has been left with no reason except to flay Sidhu’s decision to hug the Pakistani General. The Chief Minister is believed to have taken exception to Sidhu’s action in order to ward off the possible threat of bearing the wrath of the people that are steadfast in their conviction to settle the score with the Pakistan Army for instigating unabated violence along the border.

In a statement to the press, the ex-serviceman-turned-Chief Minister opined, “As far as attending the swearing-in ceremony is concerned, he went there in his personal capacity so it has nothing to do with us. About him being seated next to the PoK President, maybe he (Sidhu) didn't know who he was. But as far as hugging the Pakistan Army Chief is concerned I am not in its favour. It was wrong for him to have shown the affection towards the Pakistan Army Chief.” 

He added, "Everyday our jawans are getting martyred. To hug their Chief General Bajwa...I am against this. The fact is that the man should understand that our soldiers are being killed every day. My own regiment lost 1 Major and 2 jawans a few months ago and everyday somebody is being shot and whether the man who pulled the trigger is to blame or the man who gives the order which is the chief, and the chief is General Bajwa.”

But the rhetorical question is whether Pakistan made a faux pas while inviting former cricketers from India such as Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, and Sidhu to attend the swearing-in ceremony to bring back the memories of the relationship of Imran Khan’s cricketing days? Unlike Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev who preferred to stay away from controversy, was Sidhu unfazed by political intrigue while accepting the invitation and made a scapegoat to abet political upheavals in India? Does the rule of the land in Pakistan permit an Army Chief in uniform to hug a foreign dignitary?

Whatever the answers, there are enough indications that Pakistan has had the last laugh.  


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