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“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 travelled 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 pointed out that Pakistan was violating the Vienna Convention of 1961, the bilateral Protocol to visit Religious Shrines, 1974 and the diplomatic Code of Conduct.
The pilgrims are scheduled to return to India on April 21.
During their 10-day stay, they will also visit Sikh holy places including Gurudwara Janamesthan Nankana Sahib and Dera Sahib in Lahore.