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Terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir casts shadow on Pakistan foreign minister Bilawal’s India visit

The terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir in which five Indian soldiers were killed came hours after Pakistan announced that its foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari would be leading a delegation to India for a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in May. The dastardly attack now casts a shadow over Bilawal’s visit.

Bilwal’s visit would be the first by any Pakistani Foreign Minister since Hina Rabbani Khar’s in 2011. It would also be the first high-level visit by a Pakistani official since Nawaz Sharif’s trip to India in 2014 for the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Thursday’s Poonch attack might only add to the bitterness in India-Pakistan ties, which are already in a deep freeze.

Jaish-backed terror group, People’s Anti-Fascist Front (PAFF), has claimed responsibility for the Poonch attack, sources said. Officials suspect four terrorists were involved in the incident. Jaish-e-Mohammed is a Pakistan-based terror group.


Pakistan foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will participate in the SCO foreign ministers’ meeting India will host in Goa on May 5, Islamabad said in an announcement Thursday. The government said it would not be appropriate to focus on the participation of one country alone in a multilateral event.

Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said similar invitations have been extended to all SCO member states. He said,”It would not be really appropriate to look at participation by any one particular country”.

Several terrorist groups operate from Pakistani soil and target civilians and security personnel, especially in Valley. India has time and again accused Pakistan of sponsoring terrorism and has called for strict action against state and non-state actors.

Just days ahead of the Poonch attack, media reports quoted intelligence sources and said that Pakistan was planning grenade attacks on specific targets in Jammu and Kashmir, killings after Eid, and attacks in Srinagar around the G-20 meeting. Security forces, political workers and people from outside Jammu and Kashmir who are in the Union Territory were likely to be the prime targets, the report said.

Grenades were likely lobbed in the April 20 attack in Poonch.

Terrorists fired at an Army vehicle and the vehicle immediately caught fire, likely due to the use of grenades in the attack, the Northern Command said in a statement.


The terror attack in Poonch is likely to affect ties between India and Pakistan and there is a chance that Pakistan foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s visit might get impacted.

Though the SCO meeting in Goa is still two weeks away, the terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday does put a question mark on the mood of the visit, if not the visit itself.

Ties between India and Pakistan seem strained beyond immediate repair, courtesy frequent Pakistan-sponsored terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir and outside the Union Territory.

The impact of terror attacks on bilateral relationships has been evident.

The planned peace talks between India and Pakistan got stalled after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, which claimed the lives of at least 179 people. Pakistan-based terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba carried out the deadly attack.


Ties between India and Pakistan came under severe strain after the 2019 terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama in which at least 40 security personnel were killed by Pakistan-backed terrorists. In retaliation, India carried out cross-border surgical strikes on terror camps in Balakot.
The relations further nosedived after India abrogated Article 370, which gave Jammu and Kashmir its special status, and bifurcated the state into Union territories in August 2019.

The Pulwama attack, one of the deadliest terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir, prompted India to withdraw its ‘most-favoured nation’ or MFN status to Pakistan. The All Indian Cine Workers Association also announced a total ban on Pakistani actors and artists in the aftermath of the terror attack in Pulwama. In a notice, the organisation said they would take strong action against anyone working with Pakistani artists.

After the terrorist attacks in Pathankot (January 2016), Uri (September 2016), Pulwama (February 2019) and the August 5 decision to abrogate Article 370, India and Pakistan snapped all trade ties, suspended review of bilateral arrangements, downgraded missions and shut down most diplomatic activities. Even bus and train services between the two countries were suspended.


Last December, India and Pakistan engaged in a diplomatic spat in New York as External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar slammed Pakistan for being the “epicentre of terrorism”.

Responding to that, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari made derogatory remarks about Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the 2002 Gujarat riots. The Ministry of External Affairs called his comments “uncivilised” and a “new low, even for Pakistan”.

Given the all-time low relations between India and Pakistan, India’s invitation to Pakistan’s foreign minister holds significance. This is because there was scope of improvement with the change in government in Islamabad- with Sharifs and Bhuttos in power.

In January this year, Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said Pakistan wanted to live in peace with India and called for “serious and sincere talks” with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on “burning issues like Kashmir”.

In 2014, Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif attended Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s grand swearing-in ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi. Sharif’s visit was widely viewed as an “ice-breaker” between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

In 2015, PM Modi reached Lahore and met his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in a surprise visit to this country — the first visit to Pakistan by an Indian premier in more than 10 years. India and Pakistan have had no talks since 2015, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Lahore.


India has always desired normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan in keeping with its ‘Neighbourhood First Policy’. India has made it clear that both countries should resolve issues in an atmosphere free of terror and violence and that the onus is on Pakistan to create such a conducive environment.

India has time and again made it clear that it won’t compromise on issues relating to national security and has warned that it would take firm and decisive steps to deal with all attempts to undermine India’s security and territorial integrity.

This SCO foreign ministers’ meeting in Goa in May is one such opportunity where the two countries can engage on a multilateral platform. But the Poonch attack could put a spanner in the works. How Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s India visit pans out to be is to be seen.


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