Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman Tuesday said Navjot Singh Sidhu’s gesture of hugging the Pakistan army chief during his visit to Islamabad last month was demoralising for soldiers in India.
She said Sidhu could have avoided hugging the Pakistan army chief as there have been “very clear” feelings about the army of the neighbouring country in India.
Sitharaman was replying to a question during an interactive session at the Indian Women Press Corps (IWPC).
Cricketer-turned politician Sidhu had courted controversy by hugging Pakistan Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa during newly-elected Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s swearing-in ceremony in Islamabad.
Sidhu, a minister in the Punjab government, had claimed that he hugged Bajwa as he told him that the Pakistan government was working for opening of the Kartarpur corridor for Sikh pilgrims from Indian state of Punjab.
“Sidhu has a lot of admirers…somebody of that stature going there and then hugging the chief of the army, an army about which, in India, we have very clear feelings. It certainly has an impact on soldiers and people in the (defence) ministry. The public response is also similar. It is demoralising. I wish Sidhu had avoided it,” Sitharaman said.
Sidhu had come under attack from various quarters including the BJP for hugging Bajwa when Indian soldiers are fighting cross border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.