Funny how politicians are being scrutinised for their ‘hugplomacy’, but an exception is made for Narendra Modi, the master of the art.

On 19 August, Navjot Singh Sidhu talked elatedly about his interaction with Pakistan army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa and the prospects of peaceful initiatives between the two countries. On 21 August, Sidhu spent 40 minutes convincing Indians on national television that he hadn’t offended the nation by “hugging the enemy”.

The brouhaha over the hug – an act that has divided more people than brought together – is not unlike the other hug that captured the national imagination and chatter. When Congress president Rahul Gandhi hugged the stunned Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Parliament, it took over all the headlines. That too was an act of hugging the enemy.

If the Sidhu hug is anti-national for some, the Rahul-Modi hug was un-parliamentary for others in the chattering classes.


Also read: Sedition case against Sidhu for hugging Pak army chief a test of nationalism or paranoia?


Sidhu was called for the swearing-in ceremony of Pakistan’s new Prime Minister and his old friend Imran Khan. Although Sidhu said he did not go to Pakistan with the intention of talking politics, the cricketer-turned-minister walked straight into it when he met Bajwa. The General hugged Sidhu and told him about Pakistan’s plans to open the Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara to Indian Sikh pilgrims.

This hug rubbed many the wrong way – from journalists to opposition party leaders to Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh. Some called it “shameful” while others called him “anti-national”.

It’s funny how politicians in this country are being scrutinised for their ‘hugplomacy’, but an exception is made for the master of the art, Narendra Modi.  His hugs haven’t been any less controversial, like when he publically embraced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this year, especially when India’s relationship with Palestine has been so complicated. However, that’s still not as cringe worthy as the hug Modi offered (more like stole) from American President Donald Trump. Yet, Modi’s hugs rarely became the subject of prime time battles.


Also read: If Modi can engage with a hostile China, why can’t Sidhu go to Pakistan?


Sidhu’s hug controversy shows that it is not the hug that is the problem. It is whom you hug. Of course, this follows sustained campaigns around who you can and cannot love or marry, and which meat you can and cannot eat.

In the nation of increasing dogmas, some have the power to claim an exception to the rules. Modi can hug former Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif and be called a diplomatic game-changer. Hindutva outfits can disrupt Friday prayers being offered by Muslims in Gurugram, and the chief minister of Haryana Mohan Lal Khattar can issue a statement saying Namaz should be restricted to certain spaces. However, you cannot question the kanwariyas who run amok on busy highways.


Also read: Kanwariyas vs Namazis: Double standard over disruption in public spaces?


The deeper message in the Sidhu fiasco is that either you see Pakistan as the enemy, or you are the enemy. Unless you belong to the ruling party or the government. Modi government did send Imran Khan a cricket bat autographed by the Indian team and a letter.

The bat and the letter, apparently, stop short of a red line this election season. But the hug crossed the red line.

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6 COMMENTS

  1. Really worried . How one can compare Prime minister with a Personal visitor
    And Siddhu was not criticized for greeting and hugging Imran Khan ,But His hug to Bajwa, who is Pakistan Army cheif and not Prime misnister to take any decision on opening the Borders on the Prakash parv.
    Are you trying to fool the readers.
    I am not a BJP Supporter. But Yes Atalji and Modi are Prime Ministers and their visit with Nawaz and Musharraf was in capacity of meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister and not to Army Cheif

  2. I feel very happy that when Indians and Pakistanis – especially when they are Punjabis – meet, there are some primordial bonds, embedded deep in their DNA, that draw them closer. Seventy years of institutional hostility has not succeeded in overcoming this emotion.

  3. Is this a news article or an opinion? ThePrint.in has been mixing reporting with opinions and this is biased approach to reporting gets journalist to be called “fake”. The article becomes a standard case of whataboutery, which I believe when people do not have done enough research or strongly opinionated.

  4. Who are these imbeciles writing childish pieces and wasting Everybody’s time? This lady needs to repeat her writing classes, assuming she had them in the first place. Even when one’s views are absurd, there is a way to express them. But wow! What was THAT?

  5. What the serious fuck? The author of this article just took this opportunity as an outlet for their personal anger against Modi. Report something better please. There are more important issues such as unemployment, infrastructure, fiscal deficit and inflation that Gandhi’s and Modi’s viewpoints should be pitted against each other for – and Gandhi doesn’t even know the meaning of half these terms. Irrational and biased bashing.

  6. I train world class tennis players , Athletes never look at anyone’s nationality , maybe india the worst sporting nation in the world could learn something, i am a Modi supporter who praises Siddhu for doing what he did, Indian government has not abolished article 370 nor 33, nor have they invited the world to set up a tourism industry, They want to blame their failures on Siddhu. what a joke. After Kargil war India should have annexed POK , The gutless government did not do that They could not even stop the exodus of the Pandits. Kashmir should be integrated into India Yesterday . There is nothing better to let Pakistan know that we will destroy your designs but we love you as a people

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