Navjot Singh Sidhu had courted a lot of controversy when he visited Pakistan for the oath-taking ceremony of Imran Khan as Prime Minister, wherein he hugged the country's Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and sat alongside Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) President, Masood Khan during the event.
The Congress leader had justified his actions on two different occasions, stating he went there only 'as a friend, and not as a politician'. But on Tuesday, the Punjab minister went a step further, and constantly praised Imran Khan and Pakistan, as well as running down India by making it appear as though not speaking to Pakistan, which continues to perpetrate terror and violence on India either directly or indirectly was a sign of India's 'small-heartedness'.
Sidhu said, "I was invited by a friend who has made it big after a lot of struggles and hard work. And he has reached that position where he can change the dynamics and future of Pakistan. And on the seat where Imran Khan is sitting, he can help and support those in need. He can start a new relationship with his neighbors (India). The recent change in Pakistan politics made me feel so happy. So it was a proud moment for me when I received a written invitation, as well as an invitation over phone for his oath-taking ceremony."
The former cricketer expressed his affection for Army chief Bajwa, stating, "I want to make it clear that I met Bajwa sahab in Islamabad when he entered the oath-taking ceremony of Imran, and he saw me with great pride. Moments after meeting me, he said 'on Guru Nanak's 550th birthday, we are planning to allow Indians to visit Kartarpur Sahab, and it is very possible'. Many pray to visit this place on this auspicious occasion. This statement from Major Bajwa made me emotional, and I started to like him for this."
Recalling his two-day trip, Sidhu said he cherished every second he spent in the country. "On my two-day trip, the kind of love I received from the press, politicians and people, I am very delighted by it. It was an honour for me. From this love, I feel we have gotten closer, and there is a huge possibility of improvement in relations between the two countries.
"After becoming the PM, Imran Khan in his very first speech said that talks will be held with neighboring countries for peace. This also gave me hope, and with that I hope I returned from Pakistan," he mentioned.
Sidhu claimed that peace is the only way to stop the attacks. "If there is peace, only then will attacks stop. Only then will our soldiers not be martyred. There are many countries where there isn't any fight, and soldiers are there to only guard. In order for peace and prosperity, goodwill messages need to be sent.
"If you don't want to send goodwill messages, then why did he (Atal Bihari Vajpayee) go there? Why not close down the high commission. Why not stop the soldiers from shaking hands and giving sweets on Eid? Stop all the buses which ply between the two countries. Pakistan isn't a no-man's land! Thousands travel everyday from here, and thousands come everyday from there. And I didn't go there as a politician.
"And all those who criticize me, Vajpayee sahab also went there for friendship. Then Kargil happened, which saw 527 soldiers of India die. So will you blame him? Modi went there without permission, met and hugged Nawaz Sharif. Will you not call him nationalist? Only after that Pathankot attacks happened. And ISI came to India from Pakistan on our government's request. Will you call them ant-nationalist?", he further added.
The Punjab minister went on to suggest that Indians have been misunderstanding the sentiments of Pakistan people. He stated, "When I went there, 99-100% people were clearing the myth that there is a rivalry. So much of love, people to people contact, you can't even imagine. No one from outside can understand Punjab was one earlier. We are half-Punjabis because half of it is here, and the other half is there. You can't change the culture, food, blood by making a border. Peace and prosperity, that is the only step for both the countries. Talks are the only way out,
"If someone from there says for all the devotees of Kartarpur Sahab will be allowed to visit, so isn't there any human element? Should I have just turned my back? It's a human reaction. If someone extends your hand, will you turn your back? There were only two Indians there. So when he came forward, what should I have done? It is just a normal human reaction.
"People enchanted, 'Sidhu sahab welcome, Sidhu sahab welcome'. There are lots of positive people in Pakistan also."