India lodges protest with Pakistan for blocking consular access to Sikh pilgrims

HIGHLIGHTS

Around 1,800 Sikh pilgrims from India had traveled to Pakistan last Thursday to celebrate Baisakhi festival at Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Rawalpindi district

India has objected after Pakistani authorities repeatedly blocked the Indian High Commission from performing basic consular and protocol duties for the pilgrims

NEW DELHI: India has lodged a strong protest with Pakistan over blocking Sikh pilgrims’ access to Indian diplomats and consular teams, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a press release today.

“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,” the MEA said.

Around 1,800 Sikh pilgrims + from India had traveled to Pakistan last Thursday to celebrate Baisakhi festival at Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Rawalpindi district. However, Pakistani authorities have repeatedly blocked the Indian High Commission from performing basic consular and protocol duties for Indian citizens.

“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.

The statement also detailed a snub to the Indian High Commissioner Ajay Bisaria, who was turned away while on his way to meet the pilgrims at the shrine on 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.

This is the latest incident of diplomatic hostility between India and Pakistan, soon after the two nations agreed to mutually resolve complaints of harassment of envoys.TheTribune: NEW DELHI: India on Sunday lodged a strong protest with Pakistan overblocking of access of visiting Sikh pilgrims to Indian diplomats in … Protesting against reported denial of access to the consular team at Wagah railway station and Panja Sahib Gurudwara, the MEA said: “