Pakistan’s recent denial of Indian consular access to Indian Sikh pilgrims visiting Gurudwara Nankana Sahib and Gurudwara Sacha Sauda strongly implies an attempt by ISI to re-start the Khalistani terror movement.
An old ISI game with new rules?
Recently, India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) expressed grave concern at Pakistan’s attempts to prevent Indian consular access being made during the visit of Indian pilgrims to Pakistan, to incite communal disharmony and intolerance and promote secessionist tendencies with the objective of undermining India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The seriousness of the matter was such that MEA summoned the Deputy High Commissioner of Pakistan Mr. Syed Haider Shah, on 23 November, after the Indian consular team was prevented from meeting Indian Sikh pilgrims visiting Nankana Sahib in Pakistan, where a Sikh festival is being celebrated.
Deepak Mittal, the Joint Secretary in charge of the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran division of MEA, raised the issue at the meeting and conveyed disappointment that the consular team could not meet the pilgrims for performing official duties, despite prior permission from Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA).
Reportedly, Indian teams from the High Commission usually go to Pakistani Gurudwaras when there are a large number of pilgrims who may require consular assistance, in case of medical or personal emergencies. Similar to previous incidents, the Indian consular officials were forced to return to Islamabad without performing their diplomatic and consular duties vis-a-vis Indian pilgrims. The Indian protest letter asserts that the treatment to the consular officials is in violation of several international and bilateral treaties, Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, the bilateral protocol on a visit to religious shrines, and code of conduct for the treatment of diplomatic or consular personnel in India and Pakistan.
India has pointed out that the Pakistani High Commissioner, and his colleagues, had previously been allowed to visit and meet Pakistani pilgrims at Kaliyar Sharif Dargah near Roorkee.
These incidents are significant in the background of India’s approval for the long-standing demand for a new visa-free, cross-border pilgrim corridor connecting Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur and Gurudwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, popularly known as the ‘Kartarpur Corridor’. In fact, Pakistan has announced that Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan will inaugurate the Kartarpur Corridor for the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak in 2019.
Open Radicalisation in the Garb of Normalising Relations?
A team of local Sikhs, led by their pro- Khalistan leader Gopal Chawla, prevented the Indian officials from entering the holy sites. It was conveyed that the opposition to the presence of the Indian officials came more from the fundamentalists and that Pakistani officials did not play a direct role (?) in the incidents. A video circulated on social media even shows a procession taken out in Nankana Sahib with Khalistan flags and slogans.
The incident highlights fears indicating that attempts are being made by Pakistan to instill anti-India sentiments among the devotees visiting the holy shrines.
Coincidently, Pakistan has issued approximately 3,800 visas to Indian Sikh pilgrims for Guru Nanak Jayanti festivities that covered Nankana Sahib (Guru Nanak’s birthplace) and Sacha Sauda. As Sikhs around the world get ready to mark the birth anniversary of the founder of Sikhism, thousands of Indian pilgrims make a beeline for Pakistan to celebrate the occasion at Nankana Sahib and other holy places.
As expected, even after India lodged a protest with Pakistan, Indian consular officials were reportedly harassed and barred again from access to Indian pilgrims for the third time recently at Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak, on 23 November.
India had previously lodged a protest in June, when Indian high commissioner to Pakistan, Ajay Bisaria was stopped from meeting Sikh pilgrims at Gurudwara Panja Sahib.
In an incredible statement, Pakistan’s MoFA spokesperson Dr. Mohammad Faisal said, “The Secretary of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) had extended an invitation to the High Commissioner of India to attend the main function of Baisakhi and Khalsa Janamdi n at the Gurdwara Panja Sahib on 14 April 2018. The (Pakistani) Ministry of Foreign Affairs promptly processed the matter on 13 April 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, allegedly protesting the release of some film on Baba Guru Nanak Devji in India. 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.”
Pakistan seems to be hamstrung in its efforts to de-stabilize India through Islamic radicalization. Due to the world scrutiny of Pakistan’s use of Islamic terror as a strategic asset against its adversaries like Afghanistan, Iran and India, as well as due to its double-edged role in the on-going global War on Terror, Pakistan now seems to revert to stoking up misguided religion based anti-India insurgent movements like the Khalistani movement. In other words, the Pakistani military and civil establishment seem to think that old ideas packaged in new wrappings will help improve its rotten image as a supporter of terror. Be warned, Pakistan! Your nefarious scheme has been noted!
28 Nov 18/Wednesday Written by Fahd Khan