India protests against Pak diplomatic discourtesy

Ajay Bisaria

India on Sunday lodged a strong protest with Pakistan for blocking the access of Indian diplomats to a group of 1,800 Sikh pilgrims visiting Pakistan.

On three separate occasions, Indian diplomats were prevented from meeting the pilgrims, who were travelling in Pakistan from April 12, under a bilateral agreement on facilitating visits to religious shrines.

 Accusing Islamabad of showing “diplomatic discourtesy”, the Ministry of External Affairs said a strong protest has been lodged with Pakistan authorities as 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.

Even Indian High Commissioner Ajay Bisaria was denied access to a gurdwara where he was invited to meet the visiting pilgrims.

 “The (consular) team could not meet the pilgrims on their arrival at Wagah railway station on April 12. Later, it was denied entry into Gurdwara Panja Sahib on April 14, for a scheduled meeting with pilgrims there. The High Commission was thus prevented from performing basic consular and protocol duties for Indian citizens,” the MEA said in a statement.

 On Saturday, Bisaria was to visit Gurdwara Panja Sahib at the invitation of the chairman of the Evacuee Trust Property Board. But he was suddenly asked to return while en route to the shrine.

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