Peace Activists Condemn Poonch Terror Attack, Remain Hopeful From FM Bilawal's Upcoming Visit To India

Peace Activists Condemn Poonch Terror Attack, Remain Hopeful From FM Bilawal's Upcoming Visit To India
Peace activists from Southasia have come together to strongly condemn the terrorist attack on an Indian Army vehicle in Poonch, Kashmir, last Thursday that killed five soldiers. The Southasia Peace Action Network (Sapan), a coalition of over 40 organisations and over 300 individuals from the region and the diaspora, has released a statement to condemn “the cowardly, criminal and murderous attack” in Poonch ahead of the auspicious festival of Eid.

Sapan also extended condolences to the families and loved ones of the Rashtriya Rifles Unit jawans deployed for counter-terrorism operations in the area.

The soldiers were bringing fruits and other food items for Iftar (breaking the fast), on the last day of the holy month of Ramzan, to the residents of Sangiote village in Poonch district at the border area in Indian-administered Jammu & Kashmir when they came under attack.

The ambush claimed five lives – havaldar Mandeep Singh, lance naik Debashish Baswal, lance naik Kulwant Singh, sepoy Harkrishan Singh and sepoy Sewak Singh.

“We share the grief of the families of the slain soldiers and stand in solidarity with the Sangiote villagers who offered Eid prayers but did not celebrate the festival,” says the Sapan statement.

“By carrying out this criminal attack, the culprits have not only taken the lives of five men and impacted their families irreversibly but also insulted all the values and teachings associated with the Islamic holy month of Ramzan.”

The deadly attack came ahead of the upcoming visit of Pakistan foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to Goa, India, on May 4-5, where he will participate in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meetings. This will be the most senior-level visit from a Pakistani official to India in seven years.

Investigations into the attack, believed to have been carried out by two ‘terror groups’, are still underway. As the statement points out, the tragic incident fits the pattern that has been observed through the past decades – “that whenever something positive starts to happen between Pakistan and India, a violent act takes place to vitiate any possible goodwill that might be developing as things move forward.”

Sapan also expressed concern that the investigations into the attack should not lead to harassment of local populations.

Relations between the two countries have been particularly low since August 2019 when New Delhi abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution of India, downgrading Jammu & Kashmir, where Poonch is located, from a state to Union Territory.

The statement notes that Sapan members believe in peaceful coexistence and promoting prosperity through a focus on health, education, trade and science. “Conflicts cannot be resolved through violence. Dialogue is the only way forward. Of this we are certain.”

The group also welcomed the upcoming visit of Bhutto Bhutto Zardari to India for the SCO foreign ministers’ meeting.

“Though not a bilateral engagement between the countries, we welcome the diplomatic opportunity this presents and encourage the two governments to seize this opportunity and build on it for the peace and well-being of the region’s people and the world,” the statement added.

Sapan has long been advocating for bilateral engagements and liberalisation of visas for family members, students, pilgrims, exchange of artists, and cricket bilateral series. The petition #MilneDo (let people meet) coordinated by the group has garnered several thousand signatures.

Pointing out that growth and prosperity of the entire Southasian region is dependent on peace between India and Pakistan, the statement urges government heads of all Southasian countries to unite together in condemning this terrorist attack and support a dialogue between Pakistan and India.

“We remind them that the interests of the people of Southasia must remain paramount.”


This is a Sapan News syndicated report available for use with credit to Sapan News Network