Balochistan: India must stay the course
by Sandhya Jain on 20 Sep 2016 21 Comments
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sharply escalated his measured references to Islamabad’s atrocities in Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir by directing India’s representative to the UN to raise the human rights situation in those regions and indeed, across all of Pakistan, at the 33rd session of the United Nation Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) on September 14.


This unexpected development would have pleased the activists of the Free Balochistan Movement (FBM) who protested outside the UN headquarters in New York on September 13, when the 71st session of the General Assembly began. They demanded freedom of their country which was forcefully annexed by Mohammad Ali Jinnah in March 1948, and drew world attention to Pakistan’s crimes against humanity in Balochistan, especially the genocide and recent trend of brutalizing and killing minor children, even infants. FBM urged the UN to “take notice of the violations of its charter and state brutalities by Pakistan in Balochistan.”


It is a safe bet that Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan and POK will again figure in External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s address to the world gathering on September 26, when she is expected to effectively rebut the charges made against India by Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who will address the General Assembly on September 21.


With these developments, New Delhi will have sealed its commitment to Balochistan, and its own quest to regain lost territory in Gilgit-Baltistan and POK, before the international community. This suggests that Prime Minister Modi’s seemingly innocuous remarks before the all-party meet on August 13, reiterated at his Independence Day speech on August 15, were possibly part of a larger game plan to wade into sensitive issues and regions in the national interest.


It cannot be a coincidence that senior Baloch activist, Naela Qadri, was allowed to visit India in April 2016; she addressed several seminars and educated Indians about the history and plight of the Baloch people; and argued for India’s support for a free Balochistan. It is pertinent that the same month, Islamabad arrested an Indian national, Kulbhushan Jadhav, whom it alleged was an Indian spy who had supposedly confessed to providing assistance to Baloch nationalists. Jadhav is still in Pakistani custody, a fact that would annoy the Prime Minister.


That India’s gambit was successful can be seen from the fulsome support offered by the visiting Bangladesh Minister of Information, Hasanul Haque Inu (August 18), who deplored Pakistan’s human rights abuses in Balochistan and said the region is facing the brunt of Pakistan’s military establishment which had “targeted” the Bengalis of East Pakistan in 1971. The minister said “Pakistan has a very bad track record as far as addressing aspirations of nationalities is concerned. They learnt nothing from the defeat of 1971 and continued to practise the same policy of repression and are now targeting the Baloch nationalists.” He affirmed that “Bangladesh is constitutionally bound to support liberation struggles and we will soon declare an official policy on Balochistan.”


That India raised the issue before the UNHRC and will almost certainly do so again before the UN General Assembly, despite US President Barack Obama emphatically opposing Balochistan independence, suggests that New Delhi has thought over the matter carefully. At the UNHRC, India asserted, “Pakistan has been characterised by authoritarianism, absence of democratic norms and widespread human rights violations across the country including Balochistan.” Urging Islamabad to focus on improving the human rights situation within its country and PoK, diplomat Ajit Kumar added that Kashmir is an integral part of India and that the main reason for disturbances in the State is cross-border terrorism sponsored by Pakistan, in pursuit of its territorial ambitions. 


A second validation of the Indian position came from visiting Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (September 14), who said the conflict in the north-western parts of Pakistan and Balochistan is equivalent to a “war”; he lambasted the media for “not covering” this use of force by the Pakistan army. At a talk at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, President Ghani said south Asia is reeling under “two wars,” one in Afghanistan which “is not a civil war” (read foreign aggression) and the other in Pakistan. Around 2,700 (Pakistani) forces have moved to the north-western province and Balochistan; “this violence needs to be covered (by media) as people need to talk about it to address it”.


While not committing himself to supporting the “independence movement” in Balochistan, the Afghan President said that if people in these regions are unhappy, Pakistan should be able to address the issue: “Forces do not keep people together, rights and connectivity do.”


It bears stating that the original quest for independent Balochistan covers Sistan and Baluchestan province in southeastern Iran; southwestern Pakistan; and the Baloch region of southern Afghanistan. But Baloch fighting is centred on the old Kalat princely State that was annexed by Pakistan in 1948, where most of the genocide and abductions, deaths and forced disappearances occur. Should this region regain its pre-1948 status, it will likely come to terms with multi-ethnic Iran and Afghanistan, as a wholly-Baloch nation is an historical improbability.  


Certainly, the Afghan President has not allowed fears of a possible insurgency in his country’s Baloch habitations to inhibit his criticism of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism and instability in the region. He forcefully condemned the “distinction between good and bad terrorists” as a short-sighted approach: “Terrorism will bite like a snake whoever feeds it.”


The outlines of a Modi doctrine are now fairly clear. India will revisit its old civilisational haunts, as harmoniously as possible. Mehrgarh in Balochistan, oldest site of the Indus-Saraswati civilisation detected so far, marks the beginning of Vedic civilisation. It’s most important pilgrimage, Hinglaj Devi (Nani Mandir), is located in a large cave near the Makran coastal highway linking Karachi with Gwadar, and is the most important of the 51 Shakti Peeths, being the site where the dismembered head of Sati fell during Shiva’s tandava. Modi has personally revitalised ties with all countries along the ancient trade routes known by the generic term, Silk Road. His diplomacy is deeper than just isolating a troublesome neighbour.


Nevertheless, it has put China on notice regarding the viability of its economic exploitation of Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan in the face of native resistance. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, centred on Gwadar, Balochistan, is in danger of being scrapped if Beijing’s sole plan of action is the brute force of the discredited Pakistan Army.   

User Comments Post a Comment

Back to Top