Pakistan hits back at India over Sikh pilgrims row, calls New Delhi’s move ‘ironic’

TNN Bureau. Updated: 4/16/2018 3:12:43 PM Most Popular

New Delhi: A day after India lodged protest with Islamabad over blocking of access of visiting Sikh pilgrims to Indian diplomats in the country, Pakistan has reacted angrily terming the move as “ironic”. Pakistan-based Dawn News quoted country’s Foreign Office spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal as saying that India had on two occasions in 2018 denied visas to Pakistani pilgrims.

A statement attributed to Faisal said, “It is ironic for the government of India to accuse Pakistan of violating the 1974 Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines, whereas it is the Indian government that has, in clear violation of the protocol, twice within this year denied visas to Pakistani pilgrims on occasions of Urs of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya and Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti Ajmeri and scuttled at least three visits of Sikh and Hindu pilgrims to religious shrines in Pakistan since June 2017.”

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

India had on Sunday lodged a strong protest with Pakistan over blocking of access of visiting Sikh pilgrims to Indian diplomats in that country and even "compelling" the Indian envoy to return while on way to a prominent gurudwara.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had said that a group of around 1800 Sikh pilgrims are on a visit to Pakistan from April 12 under a bilateral agreement on facilitating visits to religious shrines.

In a statement, the MEA also said the Indian High Commissioner, who was to greet Indian pilgrims on the occasion of Baisakhi, was compelled to return when he was en route to Gurdwara Panja Sahib on Saturday.

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.

"India has lodged a strong protest with Pakistan over a block of access for visiting pilgrims to Indian diplomats and consular teams," it said in a statement.

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