Saturday, August 15, 2009

Question of provincial rights: Islamabad cannot get away with blaming India for the unrest in Balochistan.

Why is Manmohan Singh under fire in India? Many Indians, including the Opposition, are not happy about the reference to Balochistan in the joint statement released at Sharm-El-Shaikh, Egypt, after the meeting between Dr. Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned summit. Some feel Dr. Singh stabbed them in the back by accepting the claim that India interferes in Balochistan. There are reports that Mr. Gilani pressured Dr. Si ngh at Sharm-El-Shaikh by handing over a dossier of evidence alleging Indian involvement in cross-border terrorism in Balochistan and that was how the Prime Minister was forced to accept the reference to Balochistan. I was present at Sharm-El-Shaikh. Many Indian journalists were shocked on reading the joint statement. They asked me why Balochistan was mentioned in the statement. In fact, many of them, like many common Indians, were not aware of what was going on in Balochistan. Within a few hours, I started receiving calls from many Indian television channels asking what evidence Pakistan showed Dr. Singh of the alleged Indian involvement in Balochistan.

While Mr. Gilani did mention Balochistan to Dr. Singh, he never handed over any dossier. The situation in the province came in for detailed discussion during the first meeting of the Foreign Secretaries at Sharm-El-Shaikh in the evening of July 14, two days before the meeting of Dr. Singh and Mr. Gilani. Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir told his Indian counterpart, Shiv Shankar Menon, that India must delink the composite dialogue process from action on terrorism, otherwise Pakistan would be forced to produce before the international media at least “three Indian Ajmal Kasabs” who were directly or indirectly part of the terrorist activities in Balochistan. He added that Pakistan would easily establish that the Indian Consulate in the Afghan city of Kandahar was actually a control room of terrorist activities organised by the separatist Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA). (ये तो सरासर झूठ है)The three Indian nationals were arrested in Pakistan in the last few weeks. According to Pakistani officials, they have undeniable evidence of the links of these Indians with Baloch militants.

Mr. Bashir told Mr. Menon that Pakistan and India could not afford a blame game. If Pakistan were to come out with evidence of India’s involvement in the attack on Chinese engineers in the Gwadar port city, not only would India’s credibility be damaged but also more anti-India feelings would spread in Pakistan. The extremist forces would be the ultimate beneficiaries, Mr. Bashir said.

One must understand why the Pakistani authorities are very careful in exposing the alleged Indian involvement in Balochistan. First, this new blame game will only help the extremist forces who successfully organised the attacks in Mumbai on November 26, 2008 to derail the India-Pakistan peace process. Secondly, it will harm Afghanistan-Pakistan relations. The U.S. does not want tensions between Islamabad and Kabul at this stage because the NATO forces are trying their best to conduct a presidential election in Afghanistan in a few weeks. Thirdly, the PPP-led coalition government is aware that Balochistan is not a serious dispute like Jammu and Kashmir; it is a problem of provincial rights. Instead of internationalising the issue, therefore, Islamabad should address the problem realistically. It cannot get away by blaming India alone for the unrest in the province. It has engaged many Baloch militants in talks behind-the scenes. Good news is expected soon.

Pakistan is making noises about the alleged Indian involvement in the Baloch insurgency in a careful, calculated and “limited manner.” The U.S. magazine, Foreign Affairs (March 2009) published the report of a roundtable discussion on the causes of instability in Pakistan. Christine Fair of RAND Corporation said, “having visited the Indian mission in Zahedan, Iran, I can assure you they are not issuing visas as the main activity. Indian officials have told me privately that they are pumping money into Balochistan.”(ये क्या)

Where is Zahedan? It is the capital of the Irani province Sistan-o-Balochistan bordering Pakistan. More than two million Balochis live on the Iranian side of Balochistan. Iran is building a big port of Chabahar in the same area with active help from India. Top Iranian leaders have repeatedly alleged that the Central Intelligence Agency is supporting the Iranian Balochis to destabilise the Islamic Republic. American journalist Seymour Hersh admitted in July 2008 that the Bush administration gave millions of dollars to the separatist Iranian group, Jandallah, which is responsible for violence in the Iranian part of Balochistan.

If Pakistan plays the India card in Balochistan, many anti-U.S. forces in Pakistan will demand to know why it is silent on the CIA’s role in Balochistan.

Keeping in view the sensitivity of the problem, it is difficult for India to openly support the Baloch insurgency because it may harm its relations with Iran. If Indians come out openly in support of the BLA,

anti-Indian elements in Pakistan will quickly bracket New Delhi with the alleged great game of the U.S. against Iran.(क्या STRATEGY HAI)

The Balochis are Kurds of South Asia. The Kurd population is distributed in Iran, Turkey and Iraq, while the Balochis are spread over Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. Separatist groups in Pakistan and Iran want the Baloch areas unified. This is not acceptable to both countries. Balochistan has huge quantities of natural gas and unexplored oil reserves and is the largest Pakistani province in terms of area, covering almost 48 per cent of the country. But it accounts for only five per cent of the total population. A tribal society, it is the most underdeveloped province.

The first military operation in Balochistan was launched by General Ayub Khan in the late 1950s. The second was launched in 1974 when Iraq tried to destabilise Iranian Balochistan with the help of pro-Soviet Afghan ruler Sardar Daoud in collaboration with some Pakistani Baloch leaders. Daoud tried to exploit the slogan of independent Balochistan, on the one hand, and Pashtunistan, on the other. Afghanistan’s interference in Pakistan forced Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to use Ahmad Shah Massoud and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar against the Kabul regime. The two Afghan rebels became guests of the Pakistani security forces in 1975. Later, General Zia-ul-Haq used them against the Soviet forces in Afghanistan.

Pervez Musharraf gave Gwadar to the Chinese for development in 2003. Three Chinese engineers were killed and nine injured on May 3, 2004 in a remote-controlled car bomb attack. Two months later, Pakistan claimed for the first time that India was involved in the attack. Locals were not happy over the employment of non-Balochis in the main development projects of their province. They also wanted a fairer share of royalties generated by the production of natural gas. Instead of addressing their grievances, the Musharraf regime launched a third military operation against them in 2005, further aggravating the situation.

Why must India discuss Balochistan with Pakistan?

For, it will be the transit route of at least two multinational gas pipelines — one from Turkmenistan to Pakistan via Afghanistan and the other from Iran to Pakistan. India could be a beneficiary of both pipelines, which could be extended from Multan to New Delhi. A stable Balochistan will, thus, ultimately benefit India.


Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, China and India should join hands, and stop proxy wars in Kashmir and Balochistan. They can then change the fate of the whole region.


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