Sidhu insists on dialogue with Pakistan
Chandigarh, Feb 28 : Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu Thursday insisted that dialogue and diplomatic pressure will count for in seeking a long-term solution to militant outfits operating across the border, amid strain in India-Pakistan ties in the aftermath of the Pulwama suicide attack and subsequent developments.
"I stand by my conviction that dialogue and diplomatic pressure will count for a great deal in seeking a long-term solution to the presence and practice of terror outfits that operate within and across the border," the cricketer-turned-politician said in a two-page statement titled "We have a choice."
"The solution to terror is peace, development and progress and not unemployment, hatred and fear," he said.
The Congress leader's statement came a day after his friend and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan talked peace and invited India for a dialogue amid escalations across the border.
On both sides of the border, tacticians are planning for the worst, he said, adding that they must think the worst of one another, because only in thinking the worst, do they believe that they can protect and defend.
"But this belief is a mirage," he said.
He said, "Fear has been among us these last days, an unwelcome guest".
It is easy to think the worst of the other, but it does not make us safer, he added.
"I stand by my country. I am the son of a freedom fighter, and the true test of my patriotism is courage. I stand against the fear that keeps many of us silent," he said.
He said he stood deeply by the principle he held that a community cannot be blamed for the actions of a few.
"A sentiment our Prime Minister echoed, when he said 'Our fight is against terrorism and enemies of humanity. Our fight is for Kashmir not against Kashmir, not against Kashmiris.' A sentiment our External Affairs Minister shared, when she said 'Our fight is not with Pakistan, our fight is with the terror establishment'," Sidhu said.
Strongly condemning the "cowardly" attack in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama by a Pakistan-based terror group in which 49 CRPF soldiers were killed on February 14, Sidhu had asked whether an entire nation can be blamed for a handful of people, a comment that invited criticism from many leaders.
On Thursday, Sidhu said "no son of our soil should be separated from his loved ones as fighter pilot Abhinandan is today."
An IAF pilot was captured by Pakistan after an air combat on Wednesday during which the two sides said they shot down each other's warplanes.
On the heightened tension between India and Pakistan, Sidhu said, "An escalation would mean many more incidents like this.
"Irreparable loss and both nations going to a point of no return," he said.
He cited former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's words that "our objective should be to firmly deal with terrorism and its sponsors, financiers and arms suppliers. At the same time, our doors should always be open for processes which would restore peace, development and progress to societies which have been devastated by terrorism over many generations."
"Let us be patriots, with love for our country. Let us not use the label of 'nationalist' to glorify ourselves and 'anti-nationalist' to place ourselves arrogantly above others," he said.
He said a patriot stands against fear.
"I stand against the managed discourse that stifles dissent and must rely on cyber armies, trolls and goons to silence debate. I stand against the fear of those who know that their only power is in fabrication and fakery," he said.
He said that it is choice, not chance that will determine our nation's destiny.
"We can choose to be patriots. To ask what kind of nationalism this is that turns Indian against Indian," he said.
"But we have a choice. That choice is courage. Courage is contagious," he said.