India lodged a strong protest on Sunday with Pakistan for not allowing the Indian diplomats and its consular teams to access the Sikh pilgrims who have gone to Pakistan for celebrating Baisakhi.
In a press release, Ministry Of External Affairs MEA has said “A standard practice has been that the Indian High Commission’s consular/protocol team is attached with visiting pilgrims, to perform consular and protocol duties, like helping out in medical or family emergencies. However, this year, the consular team has been denied access to Indian Sikh pilgrims,”
Sikh pilgrims travel to Pakistan every year to celebrate Baisakhi festival at Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Rawalpindi. This time more than 1800 Sikh pilgrims have visited Pakistan. However, Indian High Commission has not been allowed to perform basic consular and protocol duties for the pilgrims.
The team could not meet the pilgrims on their arrival at Wagah Railway Station on April 12. Similarly, it was denied entry into Gurdwara Panja Sahib on April 14, for a scheduled meeting with pilgrims there,” the MEA said.
MHA has also mentioned that Indian High Commissioner Ajay Bisaria was turned back while en route to meet the pilgrims at the grounds of security concerns.
“Moreover, on April 14, the Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan, who was to visit Gurdwara Panja Sahib at the invitation of the Chairman of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), was suddenly asked to return while en route to the shrine, for unspecified ‘security’ reasons,” it stated.
Terming the denial of access to its citizens an “inexplicable diplomatic discourtesy”, India reminded Pakistan that it was violating the Vienna Convention of 1961, the bilateral Protocol to visit Religious Shrines, 1974 and the diplomatic Code of Conduct, which had been recently reaffirmed by both countries.
With inputs from ToI
Edited By Tajamul Islam