The simmering tension between Amarinder Singh and Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu was exposed again today as the Chief Minister issued a warning to the opposing camp not to comment on “sensitive national issues”. He urged Mr Sidhu to rein in his advisors before they end up “doing more damage to India’s interests”. This was the second time in four days that the Chief Minister rebuked Mr Sidhu’s advisors over their comments on Jammu and Kashmir.
“Stick to giving advice to Punjab Congress president and don’t speak on sensitive national issues of which you have little or no knowledge, with no idea of their implications,” the Chief Minister said.
The comments were directed at Pyare Lal Garg and Malwinder Mali, whom Mr Sidhu had recently appointed his advisors.
Mr Mali had made headlines earlier this week with his claim that Kashmir was a separate country and both India and Pakistan were illegal occupants. Reports said Pyare Lal Garg had questioned Mr Singh’s criticism of Pakistan.
Expressing shock at the statements of Mr Mali and Mr Garg, the Chief Minister said they were “totally misplaced and antagonistic to the stated position of India and the Congress on Pakistan and Kashmir”.
“Kashmir was and is an inalienable part of India,” said the Chief Minister today. Mr Mali’s controversial comments, he said, “effectively and inexplicably toed Islamabad’s line”.
“This is totally anti-national,” the Chief Minister said, rebuking Mr Mali for not withdrawing the statement despite the criticism across the board.
Ridiculing Mr Garg’s reported statement that his criticism of Pakistan was not in the interest of Punjab, the Chief Minister said Mr Sidhu’s advisor was clearly disconnected from the ground reality.
Dubbing Mr Garg’s remarks as irrational and unjustified, Mr Singh said: “The fact, which every Punjabi and in fact every Indian knows, is that Pakistan’s threat to us is real. Every day they are pushing weapons and drugs into Punjab via drones in a brazen attempt to destabilise our state, and our nation. Punjabi soldiers are dying at the borders at the hands of Pak-backed forces”
“Garg may have forgotten the thousands of Punjabi lives lost in the fire of Pak-backed terrorism of the 1980s and 1990s, but I have not. Nor have the people of Punjab. And we will continue to do everything in our power to fight off Pakistan’s dangerous games,” said Mr Singh.
The Chief Minister, a retired officer of the Indian army, had also been hugely upset when Navjot Sidhu was caught on camera hugging the Pakistan army chief Qamar Bajwa during his visit to Pakistan for after the oath ceremony of cricketing buddy and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.
“The man (Sidhu) should understand that our soldiers are being killed every day. My own regiment lost one major and two jawans a few months ago,” Mr Singh had said.
Mr Sidhu had claimed he was expressing his happiness when Mr Bajwa told him that the Pakistan government was working for opening of the Kartarpur corridor for Sikh pilgrims from India.