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Sidhu draws criticism in India for visiting Pakistan and embracing Gen Bajwa

Updated August 18, 2018

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Invitation from Pakistan was a "message of love, friendship and peace for his countrymen", says Navjot Singh Sidhu. —screengrab
Invitation from Pakistan was a "message of love, friendship and peace for his countrymen", says Navjot Singh Sidhu. —screengrab

India's cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu on Saturday expressed the optimism that Prime Minister Imran Khan would steer his country out of crises and change its destiny.

The legendary cricketer accompanied by Vikram Singh Meta, Imran Khan's close friend from India, and Ramiz Raja, member of Pakistan's 1992 World Cup winning team, addressed a press conference in Islamabad.

Navjot Singh Sidhu said the invitation extended to him to attend Imran Khan's oath-taking ceremony was a "message of love, friendship and peace for his countrymen".

"There was a deep message in Imran Khan's statement of taking two steps forward in response to one by India," he said, adding that it was now an obligation for him to take that message to the government across the border to resolve all the disputes with Pakistan through dialogue.

However, this gesture by Sidhu didn't go well with the nationalist parties in India, as they targeted him for attending the swearing-in ceremony of Imran Khan, with the BJP describing his visit to Islamabad as "shameful", Times of India reported.

Sidhu's hug with the Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa during the ceremony also came under fire with the opposition parties asking him "whether he remembered the sacrifices made by the Indian soldiers at the border".

Talking to media persons, Sidhu said that General Bajwa had said Pakistan would open the border at Kartarpura for Sikh pilgrims visiting Nankana Sahib to celebrate the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak.

"Opening of the Kartarpura passage is an earnest desire of the Sikh community," he maintained.

The former Indian cricketer said he received lots of love and respect in Pakistan. He had also brought a message of love and friendship from India but the people here reciprocated with 'compound interest', he added.