Diplomatic discourtesy! Pakistan denies consular access to Indian Sikh pilgrims; India lodges protest

By: | Updated: April 15, 2018 4:16 PM

MEA said the High Commissioner, who was to greet Indian pilgrims on the occasion of Baisakhi, was thus compelled to return without meeting Indian citizens.

 Pakistan, India, Sikh pilgrims, indian sikh pilgrim, sikh in pakistan, pakistan india, india pakistan sikh pilgrims, indian envoy, indian high comissioner pakistanA group of around 1800 Sikh pilgrims was on a visit to Pakistan from April 12 under a bilateral agreement on facilitating visits to religious shrines.(Representative Image: PTI)

In what has been termed as an “inexplicable diplomatic discourtesy” by India, Pakistan on Saturday blocked Sikh pilgrims from meeting Indian diplomats in the country. Islamabad even compelled the Indian envoy to return while on way to a prominent gurudwara there. As per Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), a group of around 1800 Sikh pilgrims was on a visit to Pakistan from April 12 under a bilateral agreement on facilitating visits to religious shrines.

The MEA slammed Pakistan, saying the Indian High Commissioner, who was to greet Indian pilgrims on the occasion of Baisakhi, was compelled to return when he was en route to Gurdwara Panja Sahib yesterday.

The MEA called it an “inexplicable diplomatic discourtesy” by Pakistan. Lodging a protest with Pakistan, India said these incidents constitute a clear violation of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations. “India has lodged a strong protest with Pakistan over a block of access for visiting pilgrims to Indian diplomats and consular teams,” it said in a statement.

The incident comes in the backdrop of envoys of the two countries making claims and counter-claims about harassment. Further, MEA said that Indian envoy was suddenly asked to return while en route the shrine yesterday, for unspecified ‘security’ reasons. The Indian diplomat was to visit Gurdwara Panja Sahib at the invitation of the Chairman of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB).

It said the High Commissioner, who was to greet Indian pilgrims on the occasion of Baisakhi, was thus compelled to return without meeting Indian citizens.

“India has lodged a strong protest with Pakistan against this inexplicable diplomatic discourtesy, pointing out that these incidents constitute a clear violation of the Vienna Convention of 1961, the bilateral Protocol to visit Religious Shrines, 1974 and the Code of Conduct (for the treatment of diplomatic/consular personnel in India and Pakistan) of 1992, recently reaffirmed by both countries,” the MEA said in a statement.

As a standard practice, 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, the MEA further said in its statement.

As per the ministry, the consular team was denied access to Indian Sikh pilgrims. The first instance came when the team could not meet the pilgrims on their arrival at Wagah Railway Station on April 12. Later, the same team was denied entry into Gurdwara Panja Sahib on April 14, for a scheduled meeting with pilgrims there.

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