India says Pak denying access to Sikh pilgrims


(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

India says Pak denying access to Sikh pilgrims

The fact that pro-Khalistani posters, banners and slogans were raised near the holy shrines – Gurdawara Nanakana Sahib and Gurdawara Sacha Sauda – only added to India’s anger.

INDIA Updated: Nov 24, 2018 00:01 IST

HT correspondent
HT correspondent
Hindustan Times
kartarpur corridor,nanaksahib gudwara,guru nanak
India on Friday lodged a strong protest with Pakistan after Indian diplomats were harassed and denied access to Indian Sikh pilgrims visiting the neighbouring country to mark the start of celebrations of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, which falls next year.(PTI)

India on Friday lodged a strong protest with Pakistan after Indian diplomats were harassed and denied access to Indian Sikh pilgrims visiting the neighbouring country to mark the start of celebrations of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, which falls next year.

The fact that pro-Khalistani posters, banners and slogans were raised near the holy shrines – Gurdawara Nanakana Sahib and Gurdawara Sacha Sauda – only added to India’s anger.

The efforts to “promote secessionist tendencies” to undermine India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is of “grave concern,” the ministry of external affairs (MEA) said in New Delhi.

Refused access and prevented from entering the shrines, Indian diplomats returned to Islamabad without performing their diplomatic and consular duties vis-a-vis Indian pilgrims, the MEA said. This is the third time in a row that Indian diplomats in Pakistan have been harassed and not allowed to meet Sikh pilgrims citing security reasons, it said.

The spat came just a day after New Delhi and Pakistan decided to develop a corridor on their respective sides of the border to let Sikh pilgrims visit the historic Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur on the banks of river Ravi in Pakistan. The incident is an indication of the fragile relationship between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

“It is not surprising that this happened. Pakistan is using Khalistan issue like before. Now, of course, with elements from Canada and the UK, Pakistan is trying to rekindle the issue. Pakistan provides support to these people in the gurdwaras, then prevents our diplomats from getting access to the gurdwaras and pilgrims,” said Kanwal Sibal, former foreign secretary.

Recently, in Amritsar – another holy site for the Sikh faith – grenades were launched at a religious congregation, killing three people and injuring several others.

Later, investigations by the Punjab police showed the grenades were Pakistani-made. The attack, Punjab police said, had been instigated by Pakistan’s spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and leftover pro-Khalistan elements sheltered by Pakistan.

Interestingly, among those who prevented Indian diplomats was the controversial figure Gopal Singh Chawla, who has earlier been seen with Hafiz Sayeed of the Jammat-Ud-Dawa who is wanted in India for several terror strikes, including the November 26, 2008 Mumbai terror strikes in which 166 people were killed and over 300 were injured.

“India has today lodged a strong protest with the government of Pakistan that despite having been granted prior travel permission by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan, the Consular officials of the High Commission of India in Islamabad were harassed and denied access on November 21 and 22 at Gurudwara Nankana Sahib and Gurudwara Sacha Sauda,” the MEA said in a statement.

New Delhi also said that “Pakistan has been called upon to take all measures to not 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, 1972 and endorsed in the Lahore Declaration, 1999.”.

The Indian pilgrims are visiting Pakistan under a bilateral protocol.

“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 MEA said.

The MEA called the denial of access an attempt to deflect attention from Pakistan’s violation of international legal instruments and conventions like the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

Pakistan has been reminded that this is in contrast to the treatment meted 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 MEA said.

First Published: Nov 23, 2018 23:31 IST

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