India Protesting against Pakistan for blocking consular access to Sikh pilgrims

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India on Monday lodged strong protest at Pakistan for inciting Sikh pilgrims who have converged from all over world to celebrate Baisakhi at Gurdwara Panja Sahib located in Hasan Abdal. "Our team of officials was given not permission to meet the pilgrims and they were given no explanation".

"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", Faisal claimed. This is the second protest lodged by India in two day.

"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".

"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".

An Indian foreign ministry statement said the Pakistan deputy high commissioner was called in to register India's objection to Pakistan making inflammatory remarks and displaying posters with such messages at places where the pilgrims visited.

Nankana Sahib is a holy city of the Sikhs and is the capital of the Nankana Sahib district in Pakistan's Punjab province.

India lodged a protest with Pakistan on Sunday for not allowing its high commissioner and diplomats meet Sikh pilgrims visiting the neighbouring country, the external affairs ministry had said, even as the two nations recently agreed to mend frosty relations. The statement notes that the actions that occurred during the visit by the Indian pilgrims are contrary to the 1974 bilateral Protocol, which serves as a guideline for the exchange of these kinds of visits between the two countries. The MEA had yesterday said a group of around 1,800 Sikh pilgrims are on a visit to Pakistan from April 12 under a bilateral agreement on facilitating visits to religious shrines.

India said that by denying the meeting, Pakistan has displayed diplomatic discourtesy. In March, Pakistan protested after India refused to grant visas to more than 500 Pakistani pilgrims to attend an annual religious congregation marking the death anniversary of Hazrat Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer Sharif, reported The Times of India.

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