News Analysis |
Pakistan on Sunday rejected Indian claim that its High Commissioner Ajay Bisaria was stopped from meeting the Sikh yatrees (pilgrims) who are in Pakistan to celebrate the Baisakhi festival. Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammed Faisal rejected as “baseless” the Indian allegation that Bisaria was “prevented” from meeting the visiting Sikhs from India.
India has protested to Pakistan after it prevented a group of Sikh pilgrims from meeting the Indian diplomatic staff, the External Affairs Ministry said on Sunday, 15 April.It said around 1,800 Sikh pilgrims have been travelling to Pakistan from 12 April under a bilateral agreement on facilitating visits to religious shrines.
The continuous diplomatic campaign against Pakistan is a message to Hindutva segments of Indian society that their champion the BJP and its master, the RSS is still true to its vow of destroying Pakistan.
“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,” the statement said. “However, this year, the consular team has been denied access to Indian Sikh pilgrims. The team could not meet the pilgrims on their arrival at Wagah railway station on 12 April.”
Responding to a news release issued by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, Faisal said: “It is deeply regrettable that facts in this matter have been completely distorted and misrepresented.” Dr Faisal said the factual position was that the secretary of the Evacuee Trust Property Board had extended an invitation to the high commissioner of India to attend the main function of Baisakhi and Khalsa Janamdin at the Gurdwara Panja Sahib on April 14.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs promptly processed the matter on April 13 and granted the travel permission. However, in the run-up to the main function, the ETPB authorities noticed strong resentment among segments of Sikh yatrees, gathered there from different parts of the world, protesting the release in India of some film on Baba Guru Nanak Devji,” the spokesperson said.
Pakistan on Sunday rejected Indian claim that its High Commissioner Ajay Bisaria was stopped from meeting the Sikh yatrees (pilgrims) who are in Pakistan to celebrate the Baisakhi festival.
He added: “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 in view of such a situation. The ETPB acted with sincerity and in good faith, and the cancellation took place with mutual understanding.”
Later in the day however, Faisal said, “the matter was raised with the Foreign Office in Islamabad and the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi and a ‘protest’ was lodged. In response, the factual position was duly communicated to the Indian side, both in Islamabad and New Delhi. Despite that, we have seen that a wrongful version has been presented to mislead the public opinion.” He said the “facts regarding visits of consular/protocol teams on April 12 and 14 had also been twisted.”
Faisal said: “The matter relating to the protocol teams’ access on the arrival of the Jatha at Wagah was expeditiously resolved through the intervention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, the concerned officials of the Indian High Commission chose not to return, even though they were duly notified that the requisite clearance has been granted. On 14 April, there was no scheduled meeting with pilgrims. Today (April 15) the officials of Indian High Commission have duly visited Gurdwara Punja Sahib.”
The spokesperson said: “We deeply regret this Indian attempt to generate controversy around the visits of Sikh pilgrims and to vitiate the environment of bilateral relations. For decades, Pakistan has made excellent arrangements to facilitate the visits of Sikh yatrees from across the world, including India, and extended protocol, reception, security, medical and other facilities. This is consistent with our religious ethos and traditions of hospitality.”
Dr Faisal said the factual position was that the secretary of the Evacuee Trust Property Board had extended an invitation to the high commissioner of India to attend the main function of Baisakhi and Khalsa Janamdin at the Gurdwara Panja Sahib on April 14.
It is ironic for India, he said, “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 Nizamud din Auliya (RA) and Khawaja Moinud din Chishti Ajmeri (RA) and scuttled at least three visits of Sikh and Hindu pilgrims to religious shrines in Pakistan since June 2017.”
For its part, Faisal said, “Pakistan will continue to adhere to the 1974 Protocol, as is evident from our issuance of visas to over 2,000 Sikh yatrees from India. We hope that the Indian side would abide by the provisions of the protocol in letter and spirit.”
The two countries had accused each other of harassing and intimidating their diplomats and their families.Foreign Office said Pakistani officials and their families were “facing intense harassment, intimidation and outright violence from the Indian state agencies.”
India, however, said that its diplomats posted to Islamabad had been facing similar harassment.Amid the tension, Pakistan had recalled its High Commissioner to India SohailMehmood “for consultations”. He was later sent back to New Delhi.
Much of this anti Pakistan posturing has to do with internal domestic ramifications rather than legitimate concerns. An anti-Pakistan stance in the Indian elections goes a long way in helping somone win, as seen in various elections by the BJP. A tough stance against Pakistan will help in riling up Hindutva sentiments which often paint Pakistan as the “eternal other”. The continuous diplomatic campaign against Pakistan is a message to Hindutva segments of Indian society that their champion the BJP and its master, the RSS is still true to its vow of destroying Pakistan.