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

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Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu is facing a sedition complaint for allegedly insulting the Indian Army by hugging the Pakistan army chief at Imran Khan’s swearing-in ceremony.

Sidhu said his visit to Pakistan was “not about politics” and called the hug an “emotional” response.

ThePrint asksSedition case against Sidhu for hugging Pak army chief a test of nationalism or paranoia?

How is it okay to hug Pak PM but not army chief if the chief is key to peace process?

Chanchal Manohar Singh
Journalist and chairman, Society for Promotion of Peace

What Punjab cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu did was right. He had gone to Pakistan as a friend of their Prime Minister Imran Khan, not as an Indian politician. Punjab’s cultural heritage lies in Pakistan as well. Those who are criticising Sidhu for going there are not expected to view Punjab’s relationship with Pakistan in the same way as we do here.

His hug to their army chief was a spontaneous reaction borne out of a natural civility which men and women in public life are used to. Politicians of opposing parties hug and greet one another all the time. They exchange courtesies despite the differences, laugh together share food and drinks. What is the rationale being used to claim that it is “alright” to hug the Pakistan PM but not the army chief? In fact, it is the army chief whom India should be engaging with more often if they want to sort out the issues between the two nations.

Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh has disapproved of what Sidhu did because I believe he does not want another emerging leader in his party in the state. The Akalis criticised him because he took up the cause of the Kartarpur corridor with them there. The Akalis think it is their sole right to push these agendas without realising that if Sidhu’s visit leads to the opening of the corridor it would be a big milestone in the Indo-Pakistan peace process as well.

In fact, India should use Sidhu, who is a personal friend of Pakistan’s PM for all subsequent peace talks. He would be an asset to India to start any constructive engagement with Pakistan in the future.

Also read: Row over Sidhu in Pakistan exposes us as a nation of paranoid, ignorant, immature idiots

Not surprised by how our North Korean TV channels blew the issue out of proportion

Mandeep Singh Bajwa
Military historian and national security strategic affairs analyst

What Navjot Singh Sidhu did may seem harmless but is definitely bad optics in the current scenario. Captain Amarinder Singh did the right thing by expressing his disapproval. Nothing more should be read into that hug, which he gave to the Pakistan army chief. As a nation, we should get over with it.

But I am not surprised by the way the issue has been blown out of proportion by our North Korean TV channels and the ever-combative social media. These are the times of competitive politics. Every tiny thing is being watched and commented on, mostly in an adverse manner. And, what Sidhu did is something right up their street, or grist to their mill, so to say.

It became news for all the wrong reasons. Let’s resolve to honour our military and move on.

I am an advocate of track-two diplomacy, but Sidhu’s hug is not going to change much in terms of realpolitik. Pakistani army chiefs are hard-nosed people and don’t go by gestures. It would be foolish to think that Sidhu hugging the army chief is going to have any impact on India-Pakistan relations. We have to have a dual approach towards them: fight with them as well as engage with them.

And if the nation wants to really debate or worry over its army and soldiers, there are real issues, such as funding and modernisation. No one seems to be talking about those. Finally, we should look after our soldiers and their loved ones rather than debate endlessly and at times in a futile manner.

Why is Sidhu hugging a man on whose orders our men are being martyred daily?

Lt Gen B S Jaswal (Retd)
Former GOC-in-C, Northern Command

The sensitivities of a nation have to, and should, remain above personal sentiments. Before Partition, Indians serving in the British army fought together. After Partition, these troops joined the armies of their respective nations. In the 1947-48 war, these men fought against one another. Many of them could have known each other or could have been friends. Their patriotism and loyalty towards their nation were above all other sentiments.

Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu has shown his immaturity by participating in an official ceremony in Pakistan and then hugging the army chief there. He should have, like the other invitees, politely refused. He can’t deny that he did not know he will meet all the other officers there. He knew what he was doing. If Imran Khan is his friend and he had to congratulate him, he could have done it later.

When diplomatic meetings take place between two nations, certain courtesies are extended. The format of that is totally different and those extended courtesies, which includes “hugging”, is not within the realm of a private visit to a friend.

Here, he has rushed to the swearing-in of a man who spewed venom against India during the course of the elections and also on the day of his swearing-in. And why is Sidhu hugging a man on whose orders our men are being martyred virtually every day? What Sidhu did was a direct insinuation against the pride and flag of our nation.

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

Sidhu’s talks were not official and have no impact on India’s relations with Pakistan

Balwinder Singh Tiwana
Professor, Punjabi University

Indo-Pakistan relations fall in the realm of foreign relations and Navjot Singh Sidhu has no authority to hold talks with Pakistan’s Prime Minister or army chief and come back announce that they want peace or are willing to build the Kartarpur corridor. So whatever the talks are, they do not fall under any legal framework. These issues are discussed during official talks by persons nominated by the foreign ministry or the Centre.

First, Sidhu’s talks in Pakistan were private which have no impact on India’s relations with Pakistan in legal and technical terms.

Second, the manner in which this triviality has been projected in India is unfortunate. In fact, it is more damaging than Sidhu hugging the army chief. What does our reaction to Sidhu as a nation show to Pakistan? We are giving importance to something which is irrelevant and meaningless.

Third, Sidhu’s visit only proves that people to people contact between India and Pakistan is unaffected. Had he gone there as just a former cricketer or TV personality, he would still have got all that affection and love which he feels people have for him. Problems arise when governments and institutions of the two nations talk.

Compiled by Chitleen K. Sethi, associate editor at ThePrint.

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