Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday said India and Pakistan must talk and resolve bilateral issues, including Kashmir, to move forward even as he came to the defence of beleaguered Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, saying those targeting him were doing a great disservice to the people of the sub-continent.
“To move forward, Pakistan and India must dialogue and resolve their conflicts, including Kashmir. The best way to alleviate poverty and uplift the people of the subcontinent is to resolve our differences through dialogue and start trading,” he tweeted on Wednesday afternoon.
Khan’s tweet is being seen as a response to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s congratulatory message to him on Saturday on his assumption of office in which the Indian leader expressed New Delhi’s commitment to a meaningful and constructive engagement with the neighbouring country and emphasised the need to work for a terror-free South Asia. This is the second time that Khan has raised the Kashmir issue since his Pakistan Tehreeke- Insaaf (PTI) won the general elections in Pakistan last month.
In his victory speech on 26 July, Khan, the World Cup winning captain of the Pakistani cricket team, had said his government desired to resolve all disputes, including the ‘core issue’ of Kashmir, with India. ”If India takes one step, Pakistan will take two,” he had stated.
In another tweet, Khan thanked Sidhu, a former Indian cricketer, for attending his swearing-in ceremony in Islamabad on Saturday, describing him as an ambassador of peace who was given amazing love and affection by the people of Pakistan.
”Those in India who targeted Sidhu are doing a great disservice to peace in the sub-continent – without peace our people cannot progress,’ he said. His defence of Sidhu came after the latter faced a backlash in India for hugging Pakistan Army chief, Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and occupying the seat next to the one on which the ‘President’ of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) was seated at the oath-taking ceremony of the new Pakistan Prime Minister at the Aiwane- Sadr (President House) in Islamabad.
Even Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has ticked off Sidhu for hugging the Pakistan Army chief. Facing flak for hugging the Pakistan Army chief during his visit to Islamabad, Sidhu on Tuesday accused the BJP of adopting double standards in the matter.
“When Narendra Modi became Prime Minister of India, he invited heads of SAARC nations including former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for the swearing-in ceremony. Sharif was accorded a warm welcome. Not only this, Modi, with hope in mind, had suddenly gone to Lahore to attend a family function of former PM Sharif and greet him without even any official formalities. No one is questioning PM Modi,” Sidhu told reporters in Chandigarh.
Asserting that his visit was not about politics but to accept a warm invite from an old friend (Imran), the Punjab minister pointed out that the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee had also travelled on the bus to Lahore. The cricketer-turned-politician said such things (meetings with Pakistan leaders) have happened before and also at times when there was tension between the two countries and also when Indian jawans were martyred.
“But now I hope that maybe the new political change in Pakistan is capable of bringing constructive change in the region,” he said.
On his meeting with the Pakistan Army chief, Sidhu said General Bajwa told him that they were making efforts to open the corridor from India’s Dera Baba Nanak to Kartarpur Sahib to facilitate pilgrims to pay obeisance on the occasion of the 550th ‘Parkash Diwas’ of Guru Nanak Dev.
The Congress leader said crores of pilgrims have been waiting to pay obeisance at holy Kartarpur Sahib, the place where Guru Nanak Devi ji spent nearly 18 years of his life.
“Without a thought, this thing said by Gen Bajwa was an emotional moment for me and the result (the hug) was for everyone to see. After that brief meeting in the gathering, I had no meeting with Gen Bajwa,” Sidhu said.