Sidhu’s relations with Pakistan sparks controversy

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Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal on Tuesday alleged that Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu has close relations with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

Speaking to the media Sukhbir said “He has gone mental. I think he has close relations with ISI and Pakistan, his call details should be probed.”

Union Minister Vijay Sampla also criticised Sidhu and labelled him as Pakistan’s spokesperson.

Simultaneously, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday said that 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.

On the other hand, Union Minister and SAD leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal slammed Sidhu over his claims that Pakistan is willing to open the Kartarpur Sahib corridor, saying that Pakistan has found a new agent in him and are using him as a puppet.

“He is such a close friend (of Pakistan Prime Minister) that out of the entire cricket team only Navjot Sidhu was invited. Let him produce a letter from the Prime Minister granting this. The moment that letter is produced, within 24 hrs, I’ll have the corridor put up by my Government of India,” she said.

“I think he is a new agent that Pakistan has found and they are using him as a puppet and he is dancing to their tune,” she added.

The backlash comes in the wake of External Affairs Minister (EAM) Sushma Swaraj issuing a clarification earlier on Tuesday, saying that Pakistan has issued no official statement in connection with opening the Kartarpur route for Indian pilgrims.

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

Sidhu’s visit to Pakistan drew criticism from some quarters in India after he hugged the Pakistani Army Chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the swearing-in ceremony of Imran Khan.

The Kartarpur route along the India-Pakistan border is around three kilometres away from Gurdaspur in Punjab, and if opened, will give Indian Sikh pilgrims direct access to the historic Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur in Pakistan, where Guru Nanak breathed his last in 1539.

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