New Delhi: India on Friday strongly protested Pakistan’s denial of consular access to Sikh pilgrims visiting two gurdwaras there on the occasion of Gurpurab. “India has today lodged a strong protest with the government of Pakistan that despite having been granted prior travel permission by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan, the consular officials of the High Commission of India in Islamabad were harassed and denied access on Thursday and Friday at Gurdwara Nankana Sahib and Gurudwara Sacha Sauda to the Indian pilgrims visiting Pakistan under the Bilateral Protocol,”the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.

“As a result of such harassment they were compelled to return to Islamabad without performing their diplomatic and consular duties vis-a-vis Indian pilgrims. We have shared our grave concern that this is the third consecutive visit of the Indian Sikh pilgrims when Pakistan has prevented the Indian High Commission officials from meeting the visiting Indian nationals on the pretext of security in order to deflect attention from Pakistan’s violation of the international legal instruments and conventions like the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961 and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations 1963,” it added.

“This is also in breach of the letter and spirit of the 1974 Bilateral Protocol on visit to religious shrines and the Code of Conduct for the treatment of diplomatic/consular personnel in India and Pakistan, 1992,” said the government.

Furthermore it said,”Pakistan has been called upon to take all measures to not allow its territory to be used for any hostile propaganda and support for secessionist tendencies against India in keeping with the commitments made under the Simla Agreement, 1972 and endorsed in the Lahore Declaration, 1999.

Notably, the MEA’s statement comes after India decided to build a corridor from Gurdaspur district in Punjab to Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak. New Delhi urged Islamabad to build the corridor on their side of the International Border and demanded that Sikh pilgrims should be allowed access throughout the year.

Recently, Indian cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, who had attended Imran Khan’s swearing in ceremony in Islamabad in August, has said that Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa hinted at opening of the route to Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib on the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, which will be observed in November next year.

Earlier this month, Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh had urged External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to take up with the Pakistan government the issue of opening the corridor from Dera Baba Nanak to Kartarpur Sahib.

Kartarpur is situated in Narowal district of Pakistan’s Punjab province, close to Indo-Pak border. It was established by the first Sikh Guru in 1522. The first Gurdwara, Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib, was built here, where Guru Nanak Dev is said to have died.  Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan is located across the river Ravi, about four kilometres from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district.”