India Condemns Pakistan's Attempt to Use Pilgrims

India Condemns Pakistan's Attempt to Use Pilgrims

Both the countries had signed a bilateral agreement in 1974 that allows citizens of the two nations to make pilgrimages in each other's territories.

Earlier Indian High Commissioner Ajay Bisaria was prevented from going to Gurdwara Punja Sahib over the weekend while Indian diplomats were again prevented on Monday from meeting the visiting Indian Sikh pilgrims.

The Pakistani official rejected India's charges as baseless, alleging that facts had been distorted by New Delhi.

Faisal said the Secretary of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) had extended an invitation to the High Commissioner of India to attend the main function of Baisakhi at the Gurdwara Panja Sahib on April 14 and the foreign ministry granted the travel permission to him. In a statement, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said Islamabad was told that such repeated attempts by authorities and entities in Pakistan to extend support to "secessionist movements" in India amounted to "interference" in its internal affairs.

According to a Ministry of External Affairs press release, 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.

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The MEA called it an "inexplicable diplomatic discourtesy" by Pakistan, holding that these incidents constitute a clear violation of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations.

Pakistan's deputy high commissioner was summoned and informed about the strong condemnation by India on such efforts by Pakistan, said the statement.

A group of around 1,800 Sikh pilgrims is now in Islamabad to visit holy sites and shrines.

"A standard practice has been that the Indian High Commission's consular/protocol team is attached with visiting pilgrims, to perform consular and protocol duties, like helping out in medical or family emergencies". This marks the escalation of a fresh diplomatic row between the two countries that erupted on Sunday when India lodged a strong protest with Pakistan over "blocking of access" for visiting Indian Sikh pilgrims to Indian diplomats and consular teams.

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