ISLAMABAD: Indian cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu today hoped that his friend Imran Khan's accession to the prime minister's post will be good for Pakistan-India peace process.
Sidhu, who met Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the Khan's swearing in ceremony at the Aiwan-e-Sadr (the President House) here, told the media that the Chief of Army Staff told him that Pakistan wants peace (with India).
Wearing a dark blue suit and a purple turban, Sidhu was among the special guests present at Khan's oath taking ceremony.
Khan, who famously captained the national cricket team to World Cup glory in 1992, had invited some of his former teammates and friends to witness his formal accession to the top ministerial job in the country.
General Bajwa after arriving at the ceremony went to the front row of the guests where Sidhu was seated next to President of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) Masood Khan.
He hugged Sidhu and both chatted briefly. Warm smiles were exchanged. As the two chatted, they hugged once more.
Sidhu later told media that Pakistani army chief said: "We want peace".
The Indian politician also said that General Bajwa also hinted at opening of the route to Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Kartarpur (in Pakistan) on the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.
Kartarpur is situated in Narowal district of Pakistan's Punjab province, close to Indo-Pak border.
It was established by the Sikh Guru in 1522.
The first Gurdwara, Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib, was built here, where Guru Nanak Dev is said to have died.
Sidhu said that he brought love and got back immense love.
"I no longer wish to swim in the Red Sea, when there is place for everyone to swim," he said in his traditional poetic style.
Earlier, talking to the state-run PTV, Sidhu used his usual poetic expression to praise Khan.
"A new morning is here in Pakistan with a new government which can change the destiny of the country," said Sidhu, a minister in the Congress government in Punjab.
He hoped that Khan's victory will be good for the Pakistan-India peace process.
Sounding hopeful about the new Pakistan government, Sidhu said "Imran Khan has emerged as a hope [for us all]".
"It is our duty that we go back and ask our governments to take a step ahead. I hope that if we take one step forward, people here (Pakistan) will take two steps forward," he said.
The ties between the two countries had strained after the terror attacks by Pakistan-based groups in 2016 and India's surgical strikes inside Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
The sentencing of alleged Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav to death by a military court in April last year further deteriorated bilateral ties.
Sidhu arrived in Lahore yesterday via the Wagah border.
He travelled from Lahore to Islamabad to attend the ceremony.
Welcoming the "change" in Pakistan's democracy with the election of Khan as prime minister, Sidhu on his arrival in Pakistan said Khan should come forward in peace initiative between the two neighbours.
He said he has brought "a message of love" to Pakistan as a goodwill ambassador of India.
"I have come here not as a politician but as a friend. I have come here to take part in the happiness of my friend (Imran)," he had said, adding sportsmen and artistes help bringing the people of two sides closer.
"Hindustan jeevay, Pakistan jeevay," he chanted while reading a verse.
Talking about the qualities of Khan, the former cricketer said: "I have seen Khan converting his weaknesses into his strength. I wish Imran becomes a symbol of prosperity (for his country)."
Replying to a query on the gift he has brought for the former Pakistan Test captain, Sidhu said: "I have brought a Kashmiri shawl for Khan sahib."
Former Indian cricketers Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev whom Khan had invited on his swearing-in had declined the invitation citing personal engagements.