Those targeting him in India doing great disservice to peace: Imran Khan. Navjot Singh Sidhu defended his visit to Pakistan and Pak army chief hug. Mr Sidhu asserted that his visit was "not about politics"

Imran Khan's tweet surfaced shortly after Navjot Singh Sidhu defended his visit to Pakistan and a hug shared with the Pakistani army chief

Shortly after Navjot Singh Sidhu parried criticism of his visit to Islamabad for the oath ceremony of fellow cricket veteran-turned-politician Imran Khan as the new Pakistan prime minister, a statement of thanks and support came from across the border.

Wading into the political row in India, Imran Khan posted tweets describing Mr Sidhu as an "ambassador or peace" and commented: "Those in India who targeted him are doing a great disservice to peace in the subcontinent."

While defending his friend, Imran Khan also seized the chance to push dialogue and trade between the two countries.

Mr Sidhu, a minister in Congress-ruled Punjab, has been targeted by critics - as well as a few Congress colleagues - for attending Imran Khan's Saturday oath ceremony, where he had front row seats next to a Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) leader.

It is unlikely that Imran Khan's gesture will silence criticism, especially from the ruling BJP, which accused Mr Sidhu of "trying to say that India doesn't want peace and prosperity."

Mr Sidhu had asserted that his visit was "not about politics" but about the invitation of an old friend.

He referred to peace gestures by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who made an unscheduled trip to Lahore in 2015 on the prime minister Nawaz Sharif's birthday.

"No one is questioning PM Modi's patriotism," he said.

"For peace and prosperity, such goodwill messages are necessary," the minister added.

Mr Sidhu also said his act of hugging Pakistani army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa was an "emotional" response. "The Pak Army chief said they were making efforts to open a corridor from India's Dera Baba Nanak to the historic Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib. What followed was an emotional moment," he said.

On his boss, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, going public with disapproval of the PDA when "soldiers were dying everyday at the border", Mr Sidhu said: "It is not necessary that just because the Captain has spoken against me, I should too."

Sneering at Mr Sidhu's defence, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra targeted his party leader Rahul Gandhi: "We want an explanation not from Navjot Sidhu but Rahul Gandhi. What is happening, Rahul Gandhi? Are you opening a Pakistan desk?"