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Posted at: Apr 16, 2018, 1:53 AM; last updated: Apr 16, 2018, 11:16 AM (IST)

Spat over Sikh pilgrims, India protests

Jatha denied consular access; Pak gives ‘Nanak Shah Fakir’ twist
Spat over Sikh pilgrims, India protests
Sikh pilgrims march during Baisakhi festival at Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Hasan Abdal, Pakistan. AP/PTI

New Delhi, April 15

In a fresh row with Pakistan, New Delhi on Sunday accused Islamabad of preventing a 2,100-strong Sikh jatha, currently in Pakistan for Baisakhi celebrations, from meeting Indian High Commissioner Ajay Bisaria and his team. 

“India has lodged a strong protest with Pakistan over the block of access for visiting pilgrims to Indian diplomats and consular teams,” the MEA statement read, calling it an “inexplicable diplomatic discourtesy”.

The MEA said it was a violation of standard practice of consular/protocol team being attached with visiting pilgrims to facilitate consular and protocol duties, such as helping out in medical or family emergencies.

Protesting against the reported denial of access to the consular team at the Wagah railway station and Gurdwara Panja Sahib, the MEA added: “On April 14, the Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan, who was to visit Gurdwara Panja Sahib at the invitation of the chairman of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), was suddenly asked to return while en route to the shrine, for unspecified “security” reasons. 

Pakistan, however, termed the allegations as baseless and said it was “deeply regrettable” that facts had been “completely distorted and misrepresented”, while claiming that “strong resentment” had been noticed among segments of Sikhs protesting the release of “Nanak Shah Fakir” in India. 

“Considering an emotionally charged environment and the possibility of any untoward situation, the ETPB authorities contacted the Indian High Commission officials and suggested cancellation of the visit. The Indian High Commission officials, after due deliberation, conveyed back to ETPB their agreement to call off the visit,” the statement read. 

Islamabad also argued that consular/protocol teams had no scheduled meeting with the pilgrims on April 14 but had visited Gurdwara Panja Sahib on Sunday. — TNS

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