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Pak needs diplomatic lessons from India

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Pakistan is wrong to have denied consular access to Indian pilgrims on a recent trip by Sikh devotees to Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Rawalpindi.

Not only did Pakistan deny access to consular services, it even snubbed the Indian High Commissioner Ajay Bisaria, who was turned away while on his way to meet the pilgrims at the shrine.

Of course, Pakistan cited security concerns as the reason for these denials, but the fact remains that Islamabad does not have a good record of promoting cultural and religious exchanges or maintaining diplomatic civility. Just last month, diplomatic ties between the two countries came to a head as Pakistan stood accused of harassing Indian diplomats in their country.

By contrast, India hasn’t allowed a deterioration in ties to come in the way of its humanitarian responsibilities. New Delhi has continued to grant visas – even emergency visas -for Pakistanis seeking medical treatment in India. In fact, in an expansive gesture, India last Diwali day decided to immediately grant medical visas for all the deserving cases that were pending on that day.

India has rightly 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 was recently reaffirmed by both countries.

Islamabad yesterday called India’s protest over consular access “ironic” and claimed that New Delhi, too, “twice within this year denied visas to Pakistani pilgrims on occasions of Urs of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya and Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti Ajmeri and scuttled at least three visits of Sikh and Hindu pilgrims to religious shrines in Pakistan since June 2017”, reported Dawn newspaper.

If that’s true, it’s something India ought not to have done. Still, it is apparent that New Delhi is the one that gives more in humanitarian exchanges between the two countries.

Pakistan ought to follow India’s lead and not play political football with people’s faiths, even as it continues to harbour India-bound terror from its soil.

Updated: April 16, 2018 — 5:43 am

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