India lodges protest with Pakistan over pilgrim controversy

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The Ministry of External Affairs on Friday lodged a “strong protest” with the government of Pakistan for denying the former’s diplomats access to the visiting Sikh pilgrims from India.

The MEA claimed that despite having been granted prior travel permission by the Pakistan Foreign Ministry, Consular officials of the High Commission of India in Islamabad were harassed and denied access on November 21 and 22 at Gurdwara Nankana Sahib and Gurdwara Sacha Sauda to the Indian pilgrims visiting Pakistan under the Bilateral Protocol.

“We have shared our grave concern that this is the third consecutive visit of the Indian Sikh pilgrims when Pakistan has prevented the Indian High Commission officials from meeting the visiting Indian nationals on the pretext of security in order to deflect attention from Pakistan’s violation of the international legal instruments and conventions,” a statement said.

India also called it a breach of the letter and spirit of the 1974 Bilateral Protocol on visit to religious shrines and the code of conduct for the treatment of diplomatic/consular personnel in India and Pakistan.

“Pakistan has been reminded that this is in contrast to the treatment met out to their High Commissioner and the consular officials in New Delhi, who have been provided full access to meet the Pakistani pilgrims who are currently in India on a pilgrimage to Kalyar Sharif,” the statement added.

India also expressed “grave concern” at the reports of attempts being made during the ongoing visit of the Indian pilgrims for Guru Nanak Jayanti celebrations to Pakistan “to incite communal disharmony and intolerance and promote secessionist tendencies with the objective of undermining India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

“Pakistan has been called upon to take all measures not to allow its territory to be used for any hostile propaganda and support for secessionist tendencies against India in keeping with the commitments made under the Simla Agreement, and endorsed in the Lahore Declaration, 1999,” the MEA said.

“Pakistan has been reminded that such actions are not in consonance with the stated intentions of Pakistan to facilitate the visits of Indian Sikh pilgrims, especially as we commemorate the 550th Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak Devji,” the statement added.