NEW DELHI: New Delhi on Saturday lodged a strong protest after the Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan, Ajay Bisaria, was denied access to Sikh pilgrims visiting Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Lahore, despite having a clearance from Pakistan’s ministry of foreign affairs. This is the second time such an incident has occurred in the past three months.
The Deputy High Commissioner of Pakistan was summoned to South Block and told that this was in violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 and the 1974 bilateral protocol on visits to religious shrines.
The Indian High Commission in Islamabad too has lodged a similar protest over the incident.
Concerns were also raised over repeated attempts by entities in Pakistan to extend support to secessionist movements in India and incite Indian pilgrims, and Pakistani authorities were asked to ensure that no such activity was carried out on Pakistani soil.
In April, Pakistani authorities had prevented Indian High Commission officials from performing basic consular and protocol duties for Sikh pilgrims who had arrived in Pakistan from India to celebrate Baisakhi. At the time, the MEA had accused Pakistan of encouraging inflammatory statements and displaying posters at various places and shrines the pilgrims were visiting to incite Khalistani sentiments.
“Pakistan was called upon to immediately stop all such activities that were aimed at undermining India’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and incitement of disharmony in India,” the MEA statement said.
The Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, which organised the June 21-30 pilgrimage to mark the death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, also expressed grave concern and dismay at the incident, which occurred despite the visiting pilgrims from India having asked Pakistani organisers to facilitate a meeting with the Indian High Commissioner and his officials.
While the Pakistani foreign ministry remained tight-lipped over the incident, in April it had cited ‘hostile sentiments’ among some of the visiting Sikh pilgrims from across the globe following the release of Nanak Shah Fakir, a film which apparently violates Sikh tenets by depicting Guru Nanak and other prominent Sikh figures through human actors, as a reason for preventing Bisaria and his team from meeting the pilgrims.
This is the second such incident in the past three months.
The SGPC also expressed grave concern and dismay at the incident.
The Pakistani foreign ministry remained tight-lipped.