A high-octane parallel tete-a-tete ensued on Tuesday as Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu and union minister and Akali Dal leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal issued concurrent news briefings over the related matters of Sidhu's recent visit to Pakistan and a purported Kartarpur corridor offer made by Pak Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa.
The dual news briefings came in the context of the meeting held by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Navjot Singh Sidhu at the former's residence on Monday where Sidhu requested the Centre to intervene in the matter and respond in a positive manner. However, in light of there being no confirmed offer from Pakistan, government sources told Republic TV that the cricketer-turned-politician was reprimanded by the EAM (confirmed by Harsimrat Kaur Badal) on two main points:
Speaking on the matter, Sidhu highlighted the sacred nature of Kartarpur Sahib and why it would be a big win if the corridor was opened, and, paying no heed to the fact that there was no such offer from Pakistan, continued to read from his letter to Sushma Swaraj:
"Dear Ms Sushma. This is a follow up on my letter to you dated September after the verbal assurance given by the Chief of the Army Staff of Pakistan during the course of my attending the oath-taking ceremony in Islamabad, the honourable Prime Minister Of Pakistan has held consultative meet with all stakeholders confirming the long-standing desire of the Sikh pilgrims yearning to visit Kartarpur Sahib and that it will be fulfilled as they are ready to open the corridor. This was reiterated by Mr Fawad Chaudhary, information minister of Pakistan, through a tweet video interview to BBC Punjab on September 7, 2018, in which he stated that Pakistan is willing to open up the corridor and is waiting for India's formal affirmation on the issue. Kindly send a formal request from the ministry of external affairs.' That is what I have exhorted her and she even agreed."
He added, "Kindly send a formal request form the Ministry of External Affairs to the government of Pakistan requesting for an early agreement and opening of the Kartarpur passage immediately after the current Monsoon season"
Sidhu proceeded, "I am sticking to my words since day 1. I can't backtrack with my motive regarding Kartarpur Sahib. Some people may target me, criticise me, but I don't care about them. I'm not asking for my personal work."
Sidhu, who infamously hugged the Pak Army chief, purportedly on account of the Kartarpur Sahib offer, said, "I do hope that Sushma ji will do something in this. She said a draft is being prepared. Formal request should be sent from our side first. We have to approach Pakistan first because the land is in their territory, then they will do something in this regard."
The illogical nature of Sidhu's statement notwithstanding, i.e. that Pakistan has made the offer but India should approach them first, Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal also began her news briefing, where she spoke about how she had written to the EAM on the purported Kartarpur corridor matter, and received a response that made clear that Pakistan had "neither agreed to include visits to Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib by the Indian pilgrims, nor has it sent any official communication for establishing a corridor".
She said that a Congress minister (Sidhu) was supporting Pakistan and not his own country, and that people weren't happy with him. Calling it a betrayal (gaddari) of the country, she called out as 'fake' Sidhu's entire defence regarding hugging the Pak Army chief, saying, "to hide his own mistake, Sidhu ji is now playing with the sentiments of the people in the country."
Badal proceeded to question Congress president Rahul Gandhi in the matter, seeking his response.