Sidhu shouldn’t have hugged Pak Army chief: Sitharaman

New Delhi: Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Tuesday that Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu should have avoided embracing Pakistan’s Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa during the swearing-in ceremony of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“I do honestly believe that Navjot Singh Sidhu has a lot of admirers and followers. He has been a very popular cricketer and also runs a lot of TV shows. He has got his own following. Somebody of that stature going (to Pakistan) and then there hugging the Chief of the Army – an Army about which in India we have very clear feelings – certainly has an impact on the soldiers, on all the people in the Ministry and the public,” Sitharaman said while addressing media here.

The Defence Minister further said that the gesture is one that can demoralise several people, adding that Sidhu should have avoided doing the same. “If it demoralises people, I wish Sidhu had avoided (the hug). I am not talking about his going. I am talking about that single gesture of hugging the chief of Pakistan’s Army,” she clarified.

Sitharaman’s comment comes at a time when Sidhu is being criticised over his claims that Pakistan is willing to open the Kartarpur Sahib corridor.

On his return from Pakistan last month, Sidhu had claimed that Islamabad will open the corridor of Kartarpur Sahib on the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, which will be celebrated next year.

However, External Affairs Minister (EAM) Sushma Swaraj issued a clarification earlier on Tuesday, saying that there has been no official communication from the Pakistan government for establishing the corridor that would enable Indian pilgrims to visit the holy shrine of Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan under a bilateral protocol.