New Delhi: India today summoned Pakistan’s Deputy High Commissioner here and lodged a strong protest over attempts to raise the Khalistan issue during the visit of Sikh pilgrims to the neighbouring country, while asking it to immediately cease all such activities aimed at undermining India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
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.
“A strong protest was lodged at attempts being made during the ongoing visit of the Sikh pilgrims from India to Pakistan to raise the issue of ‘Khalistan’ by making inflammatory statements and displaying posters” at various places of pilgrimage in Pakistan, the ministry said.
“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,” the MEA said.
It said such incidents during the visit of the Indian pilgrims went against the spirit of the bilateral protocol of 1974 governing the exchange of visits of pilgrims between the two countries.
The summoning of Pakistan’s Deputy High Commissioner came a day after India lodged a strong protest with Islamabad for preventing the group of visiting Sikh pilgrims from meeting Indian diplomats in Pakistan and “compelling” the Indian envoy in Islamabad to return while on way to a prominent gurudwara there.
The fresh incidents come over two weeks after India and Pakistan agreed to resolve matters related to treatment of diplomats. The diplomats of the two countries had made claims and counter-claims about harassment in each other’s country.
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.
It had 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.
The MEA had called it an “inexplicable diplomatic discourtesy” by Pakistan, holding that these incidents constitute a clear violation of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations.
Pakistan, however, had rejected the allegations as baseless, with Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal saying that it was “deeply regrettable that facts in this matter had been completely distorted and misrepresented.”