Pakistan blocked Indian diplomats, including the high commissioner, from meeting Sikh pilgrims visiting the country on Baisakhi on Saturday, India’s Ministry of External Affairs alleged on Sunday. India has lodged a “strong protest” with Pakistan over the matter.
A group of around 1,800 pilgrims reached Pakistan on April 12 under a bilateral agreement on facilitating religious visits, the ministry said in a statement. But an Indian consular team was “denied access” to them when they arrived at Wagah Railway Station.
Baisakhi, a harvest festival celebrated in Punjab, fell on April 14 this year.
“Similarly, it [the consular team] was denied entry into Gurdwara Panja Sahib on April 14 for a scheduled meeting with pilgrims there,” the statement said. “The High Commission was thus prevented from performing basic consular and protocol duties for Indian citizens.”
The embassy’s consular team meets the pilgrims as a standard practice to help them out with consular duties and emergencies.
India said High Commissioner Ajay Bisaria, who was to greet the pilgrims on Baisakhi, was “compelled” to return for unspecified security reasons while on his way to Gurdwara Panja Sahib. The statement called it “inexplicable diplomatic discourtesy” in violation of the Vienna Convention.
This also violated the 1992 bilateral protocol on the treatment of each other’s diplomats, which the two countries “reaffirmed” recently, the statement said.
On March 30, India and Pakistan had “mutually agreed” to resolve concerns over the treatment of each other’s diplomats, in line with the 1992 pact. The two neighbours had spent nearly a month trading allegations of harassment of their diplomatic staff at their respective High Commissions in Islamabad and New Delhi.