On a day when Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu's account of the outrageous aspects of his Pakistan trip began to border on the bizarre, with Sidhu even speaking about his affection for Pak Army chief Bajwa whom he so infamously hugged, the Congress party attempted to turn the controversy into an attack on the Modi government.
Addressing a news briefing hours after the BJP sought a response from Congress president Rahul Gandhi over Sidhu's unapologetic actions, former UPA minister Manish Tewari sought to emphasise that the Narendra Modi-government's policy on Pakistan had "swung from the sublime to the ridiculous", but in doing so, he contradicted Siddhu's strong push for dialogue and backed the reasons for the government refraining from holding bilateral talks.
At first Tewari echoed Sidhu, who, in a departure from his usual shoot-from-the-hip style, had issued a scripted briefing, when he raised the Prime Minister inviting his then Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif to his May 2014 swearing-in, and PM Modi's ensuing impromptu visit to Pakistan for Sharif's birthday. He harkened back to the Pathankot attack that had been launched by Pakistan immediately after and brought up the attack's aftermath when a Pakistani delegation was allowed to investigate the attack location.
"The ISI was invited to investigate their own doings", Tewari said, before slipping in that "Sidhu deciding to visit Pakistan in his personal capacity is a non-issue" compared to the current government not having a policy on Kashmir.
The real issue, Tewari said, was the relationship between India and Pakistan and the impact of the standoff between the two countries over the larger south-Asia region.
Tewari then focused on the topic of dialogue between India and Pakistan, choosing to base his intervention on a midway point between the two countries' interpretation of the congratulatory letter written by PM Modi to Imran Khan, over which Pakistan was forced into committing a U-turn on its new Foreign Minister's statement that India was open to negotiations with Pakistan.
Tewari said: "I think it's important to ask the PM of India, since he's written to Imran Khan where there seems to be a suggestion of resumption of dialogue, that all the red lines which were put in place in the last four years by the NDA/BJP government -- no talks till terror from Pakistan stops -- till the trial of 26/11 perpetrators isn't resumed -- till Lakhvi isn't put into prison -- till that fellow who heads the JuD, what's his name, Hafiz Saeed is not incarcerated. What happened to all those red flags?"
Earlier in the day, Navjot Singh Sidhu had refused to apologise for hugging the Pak Army chief and sitting next to the PoK President during Imran Khan's swearing-in. He swooned over the welcome he had received in Pakistan and repeatedly called for talks between the two nations. While maintaining that he had gone in a non-political capacity, he, nonetheless, made a number of political points.