Amid Navjot Singh Sidhu facing flak for embracing Pakistan Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa during his visit to Islamabad, newly-elected Pakistan prime minister thanked the cricketer-turned-politician 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.

Khan’s statement comes hours after Sidhu defended his actions that it was not a “political” visit but a response to a “warm invitation from a friend”.

The cricketer-turned-politician said he hugged the Pakistan Army chief in an “emotional” moment, when General Qamar Javed Bajwa told him that they were making efforts to open the corridor from India’s Dera Baba Nanak to the Sikh shrine of Kartarpur Sahib.

He further invoked former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s ‘dosti bus’ trip to Lahore to defend his action, 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 today.

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

The Punjab minister attended the swearing-in ceremony of his friend and former Cricketer, Imran Khan, as the Prime Minister of Pakistan in Islamabad on August 18.

Sidhu also said if India and Pakistan can settle their differences through talks, become good neighbours and increase mutual exchanges in trade and other aspects, then it will be a great hope and message for South Asia.

On Imran Khan, who was captain of the Pakistan cricket team when it lifted the World Cup in 1992, Sidhu said, he is “a friend, who can work for healthy relations with its neighbouring nation. The one, who can play a role in bringing relief to the long standing tension between the two nations.”