United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, left foreground, at the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara in Pakistan in February 2020. (File Photo: UN/IAN). Image Source: IANS News

United Nations, Dec 3 : India has accused Pakistan of violating the spirit of a UN resolution it had itself sponsored by transferring the control of the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara to a non-Sikh body.

"This act goes against Sikh religion and its preservation and protection," Ashish Sharma, a First Secretary in India's UN Mission, said on Wednesday.

Last year, Pakistan had sponsored the resolution, "Promotion of Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue, Understanding and Cooperation for Peace", which called the opening of the Kartarpur corridor connecting the sacred shrine in Pakistan with the Dera Baba Nanak Sahib in India to facilitate pilgrimages "a landmark initiative for interreligious and intercultural cooperation for peace".

However last month, it took away the control of the sacred shrine from the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabhandhak Committee and handed it to the Evacuee Trust Property Board, a statutory government body set up to manage the land and temples of the Sikhs and Hindus who had fled to India during the partition.

Speaking during a General Assembly debate on the "Culture of Peace", Sharma said: "Pakistan has already violated the earlier resolution on Culture of Peace passed last year by this very assembly by arbitrarily transferring the Kartarpur shrine's management to the administrative control of a non-Sikh body.

"This act goes against Sikh religion and its preservation and protection. You will recall that this holy Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara finds mention in that earlier resolution. That resolution stands violated by Pakistan." Pakistan, along with the Philippines, introduced a similar resolution again this year with a mention of Kartarpur Sahib and it was passed by with 90 votes and 52 abstentions with no votes against it.

This year's resolution said that the the General Assembly "welcomes the initiative to open up the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor in the spirit of interfaith harmony and peaceful neighbourhood, and appreciates the agreement between the governments of India and Pakistan to allow visa-free access to pilgrims of all faiths, especially Nanak Naam Levas and the Sikh community from across the world, as a landmark initiative for interreligious and intercultural cooperation for peace".

Sharma said that "if Pakistan changes its current culture of hatred against religions in India and stops its support of cross-border terrorism against our people, we can attempt a genuine culture of peace in South Asia and beyond".

"Till then we will only be mute witness to Pakistan driving away their minorities by threat, coercion, conversion and killing. Even people of the same religion are not spared due to encouragement given to sectarian killing." Sharma expressed support for another resolution proposed by Bangladesh with the backing of 10 countries representing a wide spectrum of religions on action for a culture of peace and said India would also co-sponsor it.

"We appreciate the efforts of Bangladesh in presenting a resolution today on the follow-up of the Declaration and Programme of Action (on a Culture of Peace), which India is happy to co-sponsor." The resolution recognised "the importance of respect and understanding for religious and cultural diversity throughout the world, of choosing dialogue and negotiations over confrontation and of working together and not against each other".

The other sponsors of the resolution that was adopted without any opposition were Angola, Armenia, Equatorial Guinea, Fiji, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Morocco, Qatar, Russian Federation, Singapore and Viet Nam.

(Arul Louis can be reached at arul.l@ians.in and followed on Twitter at @arulouis)

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