India Protests Over Pakistan Denying Consular Access to Sikh Pilgrims

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"A strong protest was lodged at attempts being made during the ongoing visit of the Sikh pilgrims from India to Pakistan to raise the issue of "Khalistan" by making inflammatory statements and displaying posters" at various places of pilgrimage in Pakistan, the ministry said.

India in a statement issued on Monday said that the Pakistani diplomat 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".

"India has lodged a strong protest with Pakistan over a block of access for visiting pilgrims to Indian diplomats and consular teams", the Ministry said in a statement. However, this year, the consular team has been denied access to Indian Sikh pilgrims.

Pakistan's deputy high commissioner Syed Haider Shah on Tuesday said their government is considering the Indian authorities' request to develop a religious corridor between Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur and Kartarpur Sahib in the neighbouring country. These photographs were shared with Pakistan's deputy High Commissioner. The High Commissioner was thus compelled to return without meeting Indian citizens, it said.

Gopal Singh Chawla, under the instructions from the Pakistani authorities, recently stopped Indian officials from entering Gurudwara Panja Sahib on April 14 (Baisakhi day).

Reacting to New Delhi's action, Pakistan's Foreign Office (FO) said, "By spreading such falsehoods, India has chosen to deliberately stoke further controversy around the visit of Sikh pilgrims, now attending the Baisakhi and Khalsa Janamdin ceremonies in Pakistan".

Faisal claimed that the facts regarding visits of consular / protocol teams on April 12 and 14 have also been twisted.

Commenting on the MEA statement, the Foreign Office spokesman yesterday termed the "allegations as baseless".

"For decades, Pakistan has made excellent arrangements to facilitate the visits of Sikh Yatrees from across the world, including India, and extended protocol, reception, security, medical and other facilities". "In response, the factual position was duly communicated to the Indian side, both in Islamabad and New Delhi".

"The matter relating to the protocol team's access on the arrival of the jatha at Wagha was expeditiously resolved through the intervention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs". India said that it is a clear violation of the 1961 Vienna Convention, the bilateral Protocol to visit Religious Shrines and the Code of Conduct on the treatment of diplomatic personnel.

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