By Elton Gomes
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s swearing-in ceremony might have caused more ripples in India than it did in Pakistan. Former cricketer and current Congress politician Navjot Singh Sidhu attended the ceremony and hugged Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. Cue the outrage.
Khan invited three former cricketers from India for his oath-taking—Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, and Sidhu. Gavaskar and Dev declined the invitations citing “prior commitments” and “personal reasons”, but Sidhu agreed to attend, and with that gained days of media attention.
Sidhu defended his actions and said that his act should not be seen in the wrong light. When asked about sharing a hug with General Bajwa, Sidhu said, “If someone (Bajwa) comes to me and says that we belong to the same culture and we’ll open Kartarpur border on Guru Nanak Dev’s 550th Prakash Parv, what else I could do?”
In an interview with NDTV, Sidhu spoke about the conversation he had with General Bajwa, with him reportedly telling the former cricketer, “I am a General who wanted to be a cricketer,” before moving on to talk about serious issues. “He said, ‘Navjot, we want peace,'” Sidhu told NDTV.
Pakistan PM shows support
Khan has voiced support for Sidhu as the hug saga unfolds across the Indian media. Thanking Sidhu for attending his swearing in, Khan said in a tweet, “Those in India who targeted him are doing a great disservice to peace in the subcontinent. Without peace our people cannot progress,” calling Sidhu “an ambassador of peace.”
While defending Sidhu, Khan also took the opportunity to advocate dialogue and trade between India and Pakistan. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had written to Khan expressing India’s commitment to “meaningful and constructive engagement”.
But the outrage continues
A lawyer in Bihar has slapped a sedition case on Sidhu for insulting the Indian army by hugging General Bajwa. Sudhir Kumar Ojha has alleged in his petition that Sidhu has insulted the families of Indian soldiers who have been killed by Pakistan’s army and terrorists sponsored by the country.
As usual, Twitter was abuzz with moral outrage.
Sidhu has also faced the ire of his own party. Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh lashed out at Sidhu and said that he should not have shown affection towards General Bajwa. “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,” Singh reportedly said.
On the other side of the aisle, a report in DailyO raised a pertinent point: if Prime Minister Narendra Modi were to hug General Bajwa would he be slammed as well, or would be lauded as a hero of diplomacy?
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius