India calls on Pakistan to respect minorities: "This level of religious intolerance is shocking"

Christians in Pakistan - India

India on Thursday called on Pakistan to stop its discriminatory approach toward minorities, including Hindus, Sikhs and Christians after a Sikh girl was forcibly abducted and converted to Islam on the evening of August 20.

In a weekly media briefing, the Ministry of External Affairs official spokesperson, Arindam Bagchi said, “We have seen media reports on kidnapping, forced conversion and marriage. It was also reported that police refused to file FIR, following which the family and Sikh community members staged a protest. We strongly condemn the targeting of minorities, including Hindus, Sikhs and Christians. The Government of India has been raising such issues through diplomatic channels with the Government of Pakistan and we call upon Pakistan to end this discriminatory approach towards minorities and discharge its responsibilities to ensure the safety, security and well-being of all its citizens.”

Dina Kaur, daughter of Gurucharan Singh, was reported to be abducted at gunpoint, raped and married to her abductor with the help of local administration and police.

Seeing the discrimination and oppression, hundreds of Sikhs and other locals blocked the road and demanded justice.

“These issues worry us a lot. It’s shocking to see this level of religious intolerance in Pakistan. The apathy of law enforcement agencies towards religious minorities is of course part of that system and we see this as yet another instance of religious persecution faced by the minority community in Pakistan,” said the MEA spokesperson on the abduction of a Sikh woman in Pakistan.

Bagchi also gave a description of how minorities have to face difficulties in Pakistan.

“As you are aware there have been unfortunately similar incidents of targeted attacks on minorities in the recent past in Pakistan, including two Sikh traders in Peshawar in May, the killing of an 18-year-old Hindu girl for resisting abduction in Sukkur in March 2022 and brutal murder of Christian pastor in Peshawar in February. These instances reveal the atmosphere of insecurity faced by religious minorities in Pakistan,” said Bagchi.

Speaking about reports on Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s desire of peaceful ties with India, he said, “This is nothing new, we too want good relations, India desires peaceful, friendly and cooperative relations with Pakistan, which requires an environment free from violence and terror. We want peaceful relations with our neighbours, but you know what are the problems of Pakistan and they should take steps to develop peaceful relations.”

The relationship between the two countries worsened in 2019 after India revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. Since then the diatic ties have been downgraded, bilateral trade suspended and there has been no structured dialogue.

Earlier, Sharif said that his country desired peaceful ties with India including “a just and peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the relevant UNSC resolutions.”

He made the remarks during a meeting with the newly appointed Australian High Commissioner to Pakistan Neil Hawkins, who had called on him in Islamabad, reported The Express Tribune.

“A just and peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the relevant UNSC resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people is indispensable for peace and stability in the region,” said PM Shehbaz.

Sharif also said that his country wants long-lasting peace with India and war is not an option for either of the two neighbours.

“We want permanent peace with India through dialogue as war is not an option for either of the countries,” he said while talking to a group of students from Harvard University, US, reported The News International.

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