New Delhi: In a fresh strain in bilateral ties, India on Friday lodged a strong protest with Pakistan against harassment of officials of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad and denying them access to Sikh pilgrims from India visiting Nankana Sahib Gurudwara and the Sacha Sauda Gurudwara across the border. New Delhi also accused Islamabad of attempting to “promote secessionist tendencies” among Indian pilgrims.
According to sources, Pakistani security agencies have been trying to spread pro-Khalistan propaganda and harass innocent Indian Sikh pilgrims by denying them consular access. There were reports that pro-Khalistani banners were shown to Indian pilgrims while they were on their way to the two Sikh shrines.
“This is the third consecutive visit of Indian Sikh pilgrims when Pakistan has prevented the high commission officials from meeting them on the pretext of security,” the ministry of external affairs said.
In a statement, the ministry said, “Consular officials of the High Commission of India in Islamabad were harassed and denied access, on November 21 and 22 at Gurudwara Nankana Sahib and Gurudwara Sacha Sauda, to the Indian pilgrims visiting Pakistan under the bilateral protocol. As a result of such harassment they were compelled to return to Islamabad without performing their diplomatic and consular duties vis-a-vis Indian pilgrims.”
The MEA called the denial of access by Pakistan a violation of international legal instruments and conventions like the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.
“We have also expressed grave concern at reports of attempts being made during the ongoing visit of the Indian pilgrims to Pakistan, to incite communal disharmony and intolerance and promote secessionist tendencies with the objective of undermining India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the ministry said.
New Delhi also said that Islamabad has been called upon to take measures to not allow its territory to be used for any hostile propaganda and support for secessionist movements against India.
“Pakistan has been reminded that this is in contrast to the treatment meted out to their High Commissioner and the consular officials in New Delhi who have been provided full access to meet Pakistani pilgrims who are currently in India on pilgrimage to Kalyar Sharif,” the ministry said.
India’s protest came a day after the two countries agreed to develop a corridor on their respective side of the border to link a historic Sikh shrine in Kartarpur in Pakistan. The Indian corridor will be in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district and help pilgrims reach the shrine which is on the banks of the Ravi in Norawal district of Pakistan Punjab.
The corridor is planned as part of celebrations for the 550th birth anniversary next November of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, who lived in undivided Punjab in the 15th and 16thcentury.