In a last-minute decision, India has postponed the issuance of visas to 192 Pakistani pilgrims who wished to attend the annual Urs of Khawaja Nizamuddin Aulia, which is to take place in Delhi from January 1-8, 2018, a press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Saturday.
According to the press release, the move has effectively "deprived" pilgrims from attending the death anniversary of the 13th century mystic, who is revered by many on both sides of the border.
The non-issuance of visas before the Urs ceremony is also a violation of the spirit of the 1974 Pakistan-India Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines agreement, the press release said.
The decision comes just two days after Pakistan freed 145 Indian fishermen as a goodwill gesture amidst a war of words between New Delhi and Islamabad over the circumstances of the meeting between convicted Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav and his family. Pakistan had allowed Jadhav's wife and mother to meet him on "humanitarian grounds".
In June this year, several Sikh pilgrims travelling to Pakistan for the death anniversary of Guru Arjan Dev as well as Maharaja Ranjit Singh were stopped by the Indian government despite issuance of visas by the Pakistani High Commission in India.
Only 16 pilgrims were able to arrive in Pakistan to attend the death anniversary of Guru Arjan Dev in the second week of June, after India kept more than 200 Sikh pilgrims from visiting over "technical grounds". The handful of pilgrims that managed to arrive came aboard the Samjhota Express instead of the special train arranged for yatrees.
Later in the same month, India stopped over 300 Sikh pilgrims, who wished to attend the death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, from crossing the border citing refusal from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs to clear their names for travel.