Former India cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu, now a Punjab minister, is being pilloried for his actions in Pakistan, that he recently visited as an invitee to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s swearing-in. Mr Sidhu’s principal crime is that he hugged Pakistan Army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa. In many cultures, including Punjab and all regions of pre-1947 India now Pakistan, embracing is more the social courtesy than a handshake. Even enemies offer a perfunctory embrace in some cases. The BJP is making a mountain of a molehill in playing this up.
Would it have done so if Mr Sidhu weren’t in the Congress, especially after leaving the BJP? Mr Sidhu is anyway known as a maveric, and may well have stayed in the BJP if the circumstances were right, or may have moved to the AAP instead of the Congress.
Mr Sidhu was personally invited by the new Pakistan PM only because the two were friends in their cricketing days, not because of Mr Sidhu’s politics. It should be recalled that former PM Atal Behari Vajpayee, who was from the BJP, repeatedly sought to build bridges of understanding with Pakistan despite recurring provocations of terrorism and the Kargil attack.
That example makes his party’s observations on Mr Sidhu seem ridiculous. The BJP’s comments on a retired cricketer who found himself cast in a certain social role are unworthy of a ruling party. Apparently,
Mr Sidhu’s other crime is that he was seated near the “president” of PoK, Masood Khan, and exchanged pleasantries with him. Well, in Turkey, the Indian embassy is located on Mohammed Ali Jinnah Avenue. Are we guilty of co-habiting with the “enemy”?