The bonhomie between Imran Khan and Navjot Sidhu was in full flow in Pakistan today hours after India refused to attend the SAARC summit there, citing continuing cross-border terror. Mr Sidhu, who had triggered a raging controversy back home with his decision to attend the groundbreaking ceremony of the Kartarpur Sahib corridor, hailed Mr Khan as his "Yaar Dildaar" (dear friend) and thanked him for giving a green signal to the corridor, which has been on the wishlist of India's Sikhs for decades.
The Pakistan Prime Minister responded with a sugary barb. "I hope we don't have to wait for Navjot Sidhu to become India's Prime Minister for the two countries to become friends," Mr Khan said.
"As a cricketer Navjot Sidhu was someone who took risks, never was scared of failing. He is not one of those politicians who are selfish," Mr Khan said.
He also raised the subject of the criticism Mr Sidhu had to face back home when he went to Pakistan to attend his oath ceremony in August.
"Why is Sidhu in so much trouble? We are two countries that are nuclear countries, we can't be at war because that's madness. So why do they criticise him?" Mr Khan said. Then he added an open invitation: "Sidhu come here and you will win elections here... I hope we don't have to wait for Sidhu to become Prime Minister for peace talks to happen."
Navjot Sidhu had been ripped apart by the BJP and on social media after he was seen but embracing Pakistan army chief General Qamar Bajwa and sitting with the "president" of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir. After Pakistan signed off on the Kartarpur Sahib corridor, Mr Sidhu bragged that the episode had to some positive outcome.
This time, he was roasted after deciding to go to Pakistan even when his boss, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh declined, citing terror attacks in his state. One of these took place last week at a prayer hall near Amritsar in which three persons died.
Mr Singh has said he had asked Mr Sidhu to reconsider his decision. "Sidhu told me he had already committed himself to going. When I informed him of the stand I had taken on the issue, he said it was his personal visit but he would get back to me. But I did not hear from him," the Chief Minister said.
Earlier today, while addressing the gathering, Mr Sidhu had been effusive.
The former cricketer, who earlier referred to Mr Khan as an angel, said, "This is miracle, what hasn't happened in 70 years... Mera yaar, dildaar, Imran Khan jive (may my friend Imran Khan thrive, live). He has been a good friend and delivered his promise".
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