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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 18, 19, April 29 & May 6, 2023 (Double issue)

Southasia Peace Action Network condemns Poonch attack, supports Pakistani foreign minister’s India visit (April 25, 2023

Saturday 29 April 2023


Southasia Peace Action Network

25 April 2023: We at Sapan, Southasia Peace Action Network, strongly condemn the cowardly, criminal and murderous attack on an Indian Army vehicle in Poonch last Thursday that killed five soldiers [1] on the last day of the holy month of Ramzan, ahead of the auspicious festival of Eid.

We extend our condolences to the families and loved ones of the Rashtriya Rifles Unit jawans deployed for counter-terrorism operations in the area, who were bringing fruits and other food items for Iftar (breaking the fast) to the residents of Sangiote village in Poonch district at the border area in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir.

The men whose lives [2] were taken in the ambush were fathers, sons, brothers, who leave behind families devastated by their loss — 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 [3]. 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 [4] of Pakistan foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to India 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. Regardless of who was responsible, 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. We are also concerned that the investigations into the attack should not lead to harassment of local populations.

Representing different religions, nations and regions of Southasia and diaspora across the world, we strongly 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.

In this spirit, we welcome the upcoming visit of Pakistan foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to India for the SCO foreign ministers’ meeting. We commend the willingness of the foreign minister to visit and his hosts for making this happen.

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.

We fervently hope that this visit will mark the beginning of many such future engagements, and liberalisation of visa to family members, exchange of artists, cricket bilateral series, students, and pilgrims. Please find our petition #MilneDo here.

Growth and prosperity of the entire Southasian region is dependent on peace between India and Pakistan. Therefore, we urge 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.

Southasia Peace Action Network (Sapan)
25 April 2023

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