Kolkata: Facing flak for embracing Pakistan Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa during his recent visit to Islamabad, Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu has now received support from BJP leader Shatrughan Sinha, who said that Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Narendra Modi had hugged their Pakistani counterparts during their visits to that country.

Sinha said Sidhu had already made himself clear on the issue and “I don’t think there is any scope for any controversy”.

“I have already said our former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee during his visit to Pakistan had hugged his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif. Our present Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also hugged Nawaz Sharif during his visit. I think the whole thing has been blown out of proportion,” Sinha, a member of Parliament, told reporters here yesterday.

The cricketer-turned-politician, visited Pakistan last week for the swearing-in of Imran Khan as Pakistan’s prime minister. But a photo grab of him hugging Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the function landed him in a controversy back home.

The Punjab minister has defended his action saying that he got caught in the moment after hearing that Sikh pilgrims might get access to a shrine across the border.

Sidhu justified his act invoking Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s ‘dosti bus’ trip to Lahore, saying that efforts for peace have been made in the past also.

“In the past also, efforts for peace have been made, the late Vajpayee ji had taken ‘dosti bus’ to Lahore, invited Musharraf. PM Modi invited Nawaz Sharif to oath-taking, he also went suddenly to Lahore,” he said while addressing a press conference on Tuesday.

Hours later, newly-elected Pakistan PM Imran Khan came out in Sidhu’s support thanking him for attending his oath-taking ceremony and termed him an “ambassador of peace”.

“I want to thank Sidhu for coming to Pak for my oath taking. He was an ambassador of peace and was given amazing love and affection by people of Pak. Those in India who targeted him are doing a great disservice to peace in the subcontinent – without peace our people can’t progress,” said Khan.

“To move forward Pakistan and India must dialogue and resolve their conflicts incl Kashmir: The best way to alleviate poverty and uplift the people of the subcontinent is to resolve our differences through dialogue and start trading,” he added.

Sidhu has been slammed by the opposition and earned displeasure even from his Chief Minister Amarinder Singh for hugging Gen Bajwa.