Raking up his controversial hug with Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa in August earlier this year, Senior Congress Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu on Tuesday, 27 November, said that it was a hug that lasted seconds, and not a Rafale Deal.
Sidhu further clarified that what he did was a normal practice in Punjab.
“The hug (with Pakistan Army Chief) was for hardly a second, it was not a Rafale Deal. When two Punjabis meet they hug each other, its normal practice in Punjab,” senior minister Sidhu said, while speaking in Lahore at the opening ceremony of Kartarpur Corridor.
The hug between Indian minister and neighbouring country’s Army chief at the swearing-in ceremony of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, raised a political firestorm with many dubbing the hug by Sidhu as ‘shameful’, as it came at a time when ties between the two nations were heavily strained.
The move by Sidhu to visit Pakistan at a time when India was mourning the demise of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was also questioned.
The Kartarpur Corridor, Sidhu said, would promote peace and erase "enmity" between India and Pakistan and create infinite possibilities between them, including the resumption of cricket ties.
Sidhu, who arrived in Lahore on Tuesday along with a group of Indian journalists to take part in the groundbreaking ceremony of the Kartarpur Corridor in Narowal, some 120 kms from Lahore, was greeted at the Wagah Border by officials of Pakistan's Punjab province.
The 4-km-long corridor will connect Dera Baba Nanak in India's Gurdaspur district with Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan. The corridor will provide visa-free access to the Indian Sikh pilgrims to the gurdwara.
Prime Minister Imran Khan will open the corridor on Wednesday.
“Corridor Will Erase Enmity Between India and Pak”
Sidhu has thanked Khan for making this corridor possible, which he believes will help promote peace between the two countries.
"This will erase enmity between the two nations," he said.
"The seed Imran Khan had sown three months ago has become a plant. It is a happy moment for the Sikh community as they can reach Kartarpur to get Baba Guru Nanak's blessing without any hassle," he told the media.
He said the wait of 71 years will come to an end after the corridor is opened. "The Karturpur Corridor will prove to be a path of peace,” Sidhu added.
"There are numerous artistes and cricketers in both the countries whom everyone loves and there needs to be cricket matches between India and Pakistan," he said.
The former cricketer said the Katarpur Corridor would create infinite possibilities between the two neighbours including the resumption of cricket ties.
"There is no rule in the world that prevents religious devotees to visit places of worship," the Indian cricketer-turned-politician said.
"I congratulate Pakistan and India for providing the facility to Sikhs after 71 years," he said.
“Been a Fan of Imran Khan Since Childhood”
Responding to criticism of his decision to visit Pakistan in August to attend the oath-taking ceremony of Imran Khan, Sidhu said, "I forgive those who criticised me."
"I have been a fan of Imran Khan since I was a child," Sidhu said as he joked and recited verses in Punjabi.
"There are many fans of Imran, Wasim Akram and Javed Miandad in India, similarly in Pakistan, Shah Rukh and Salman Khan have a huge fan following."
Kartarpur is located in Shakargarh in Narowal district of Pakistan's Punjab province. It is said that Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism, had spent more than 18 years of his life there. The Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara is located on the banks of the Ravi River, about three-four kilometres from the border in Pakistan.
On Monday, Indian Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Indian Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh laid the foundation stone of the Indian side of the corridor in Gurdaspur.
(With inputs from PTI)
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