Navjot Singh Sidhu
In picture: Navjot Singh Sidhu.IANS File Photo

Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, who has been gathering flak for hugging Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, has made his stand clear on the burning issue. 

Speaking to media, Sidhu called the hug a 'normal human reaction' and said that his invitation to the swearing-in ceremony of Pakistan's newly appointed Prime Minister Imran Khan was not political in nature and he had gone there as Imran's friend. 

"It is a human reaction. Will you show your back if someone offers the hand of friendship?" the Congress leader asked reporters while defending his act which has not gone down quite well with the opposition as well as Punjab's Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh. 

Sidhu also talked about former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's overturn on Pakistan and said that efforts for peace with the neighbouring country have also been made in the past.

He mentioned that while Atal Bihari Vajpayee had taken the 'dosti bus' to Lahore and had invited General Musharraf for talks, PM Modi had also invited the then Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif to his swearing-in ceremony and had also gone to Lahore. 

The Congress leader, however, refused to comment on Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh's remarks and said that in a democracy, everyone has the right to express their opinions on any issue. 

Reacting to Sidhu hugging Bajwa, Captain Amarinder Singh had said that it was wrong for Sidhu to have shown affection towards the Pakistani Army chief. 

Sidhu also informed reporters that he had gone to Pakistan for Imran Khan's oath-taking ceremony only after taking the government's permission and completing all the necessary paper-work. He also asserted that talks were the only way to end the longstanding conflict between India and Pakistan. 

BJP and other parties had condemned Sidhu's visit and termed it as 'shameful.' Sidhu was the only Indian who attended Imran Khan's oath-taking ceremony. The BJP had questioned his decision to hug Pakistan Army chief and had even asked Congress president Rahul Gandhi whether he would suspend Sidhu from the party.

Meanwhile, Pakistan's new Prime Minister and former cricket captain Imran Khan took to his twitter handle to thank Sidhu for being present at his swearing-in ceremony. "I want to thank Sidhu for coming to Pakistan for my oath taking. He was an ambassador of peace & was given amazing love & affection by ppl of Pakistan. Those in India who targeted him are doing a gt disservice to peace in the subcontinent - without peace our ppl cannot progress," Khan tweeted.