India accuses Pakistan of inciting Sikh pilgrims

NEW DELHI: The fresh spat between Delhi and Islamabad over Sikh pilgrims visiting Pakistan for Baisakhi celebrations has become more bitter. India on Monday summoned the Pakistani Deputy High Commissioner to lodge a strong protest against reported attempts being made during the ongoing visit to raise the issue of ''Khalistan''.

India accuses Pakistan of inciting Sikh pilgrims

Sikh pilgrims march during the Baisakhi festival, at Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Hasan Abdal, 50 km from Islamabad, on April 14. AP/PTI file

Smita Sharma  

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 17

The fresh spat between Delhi and Islamabad over Sikh pilgrims visiting Pakistan for Baisakhi celebrations has become more bitter. India on Monday summoned the Pakistani Deputy High Commissioner to lodge a strong protest against reported attempts being made during the ongoing visit to raise the issue of 'Khalistan'. 

MEA (Ministry of External Affairs) has accused Pakistan of making inflammatory statements and displaying posters at various places and shrines where the pilgrims are visiting from April 12 to 21.

"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," said the MEA official statement. 

Of the nearly 20,000 Sikh pilgrims from across the globe, nearly 2,100 Sikhs from India have been issued visas under the bilateral Protocol of 1974 governing the exchange of visits of pilgrims between the two countries. The pilgrims are to visit holy sites like Nanakana Sahib and Gurdwara Panja Sahib to celebrate the 320th birth anniversary of the Khalsa. 

"It was conveyed that such repeated attempts by authorities and entities in Pakistan to extend support to secessionist movements in India amount to interference in the internal affairs of India," MEA added in its statement issued after summoning the Pakistani diplomat today.

Earlier on Sunday, MEA had protested against Islamabad for not allowing High Commissioner Ajay Bisaria and counsellor/protocol team to meet with the visiting pilgrims and called it 'inexplicable diplomatic discourtesy'. 

Pakistan, however, rejected the allegation as distortion of facts and said Bisaria had been advised against the meeting in view of riled up sentiments in sections of the Sikh pilgrims over the release of film 'Nanak Shah Fakir' in India.

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