Imagine just two days after India was observing the 10th anniversary of deadly Mumbai attack, engineered in Pakistan and perpetrators were shamelessly sheltered by the rogue state, Navjot Singh Sidhu, the state minister of Congress Government in Punjab, was all praise of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan. Perhaps talkative Sidhu was not aware of the fact that Imran Khan is the same person who called Nawaz Sharif as modern-day Mir Zafar when the former Pakistan PM has bravely admitted that 26/11 attackers were from Pakistan.
As that was not enough, Nawaz Sharif has questioned the slow probe going on in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. He even said, “Militant organisations are active Pakistan). Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai?”
And surprisingly enough that admission of Sharif was roundly condemned by Imran Khan, who declared Nawaz Sharif the modern-day Mir Jafar. “Nawaz speaking Modi's language against Pak State simply to protect his ill-gotten wealth stashed in his sons' companies abroad”, Imran said for Sharif.
And that very Imran Khan is a hero of Sidhu. “My friend Imran Khan has ended the 70 years of wait. Imran has fulfilled our wishes. My parents used to see it from a distance and return with tears in their eyes. The Indian government and Imran Khan have fulfilled our wishes and connected us to our roots,” the cricketer-turned-politician said for Pakistan’s Prime Minister in Pakistan. “ This corridor is full of promise, it will connect the two countries. History will remember Imran and the Indian government for bringing the two countries together with this,” Sidhu said.
And like a true friend, Imran Khan said for Sidhu "I hope we don't have to wait for Navjot Sidhu to become India's Prime Minister for the two countries to become friends.”
"As a cricketer, Navjot Sidhu was someone who took risks, never was scared of failing. He is not one of those politicians who are selfish," Khan said, proving that the mutual praise club is kicking.
It goes without saying that Sidhu would have done yeoman service if he had also demanded a speedy trial of those responsible for the 26/11 attack in the presence of his ‘friend’ as well as Pakistan’s Army Chief Qamar Javad Bajwa, whom he was embracing during his previous trip to Pakistan. He, however, ignored the matter. He put another subject under the carpet. That was related to Pakistan sponsored terror attacks in India. Meanwhile, nobody was expecting anything from Imran Khan in respect of speedy trial for all those responsible for the Mumbai attack given his stand on the subject that we have seen when he attacked Sharif.
Indeed, it was statesmanlike decision of Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh to decline Pakistan's invitation to attend the opening ceremony of Kartarpur corridor. He cited two reasons for not visiting Pakistan. A. Continued terrorist attacks in Punjab. B. Killings of Indian soldiers by Pakistani armed forces. It is indeed that these factors were not considered at all by Sidhu while heaping praise for Imran Khan and his government. He could discuss these two subjects with the Pakistani leadership. Has he forgotten rank anti-Indian Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militants attacked the Pathankot Air Base attack in 2016? And it is equally surprising that he is perhaps unaware that there was a Pakistan hand in the recent Amritsar grenade attack too. Informed sources claim that
Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was providing logistic support to Khalistani supporters to create terror in Punjab. That attack killed three people and injuring 20. The Punjab police arrested a Khalistani supporter who reportedly admitted that ISI is providing guns and ammunition to unleash the terror. Despite all these serious developments in his home state, he is going overboard.
Honestly, Sidhu is making a mockery of himself with his statements that are least expected from a seasoned political leader of a national party. Recently while attending the Kasauli Lit Festival, Sidhu said, "If I go to Tamil Nadu, I don't understand the language. Not that I don't like the food, but I can't take it for long. That culture is totally different. But if I travel to Pakistan, there is no difficulty. The language is the same and everything there is just amazing." With this irresponsible statement, he was proving that he has no understating of India’s linguistic and cultural diversity. Understandably, he was severely reprimanded by various political parties.
Said Digvijay Singh, national head of the study Circle of BJP Youth wing, "Sidhu should understand that South India is the heart of India and our Tamil language is the oldest language in India. South India has got top priority in India, and he should understand that." He continued, "Once again Sidhu has acted as an agent of Pakistan, and we strongly condemn Sidhu for doing this. If Sidhu does not apologise for his remark, he is free to go to Pakistan and enjoy his food and language. We condemn his statement, and he should apologise immediately."
Meanwhile, AIADMK too hit out at the Congress leader. Party’s spokesperson Muralidaran Shivalingam said, "In a lighter note, let Sidhu go to Pakistan if he likes it so much. There is no point taking his statement seriously, he is a comedian, and when he was with the BJP he abused Sonia Gandhi, and now he is falling at her feet. The same people had criticised the AIADMK culture of falling at Anna's feet. Just take his comment with a pinch of salt and not make this a huge issue or subject of national debate."
It is most unlikely that Sidhu, who has made a laughing stock of himself time and again, would mend his ways considering his track record.
(The writer is former editor Somaiya Publications, New Delhi)