CECIL VICTOR. Editorial.IX.XXX.XVI
BALOCHISTAN: A BRIDGE
By CECIL VICTOR
While one commends the outreach to the self-exiled Baloch leader Brahamdag Baloch by Prime Minister Narendra Modi from the ramparts of the Red Fort on Independence Day and the possibility of giving him asylum in India on humanitarian grounds, India will have to play this card astutely – a trait abysmally absent in its foreign and security policy.
There is no doubt that the tribal uprising in which the Baloch have played a major role (and paid a heavy price) ever since the ruler of Kalat was amalgamated into Pakistan by force of military action in 1948 has been a festering sore for Islamabad. The people have long fought bitterly with the Pakistan Army for the manner in which they have been deprived of the benefits of growth based on the natural resources of the land which include gas, oil, gold and copper. Balochistan in its landmass is equal to half of Pakistan but the fact that it has a very thin density of population has been taken advantage of by the more densely populated Punjab, Sindh and the former North West Frontier Province (NWFP) now renamed Khyber Pakhtoonkhwah. The gas wealth from the Sui fields has been siphoned off to the other provinces with very little to show by way of development in Balochistan itself.
There are three main tribes that constitute Balochistan – the Bugti, Marri and Mengal and each of them has been involved in the insurgency that began with the annexation of their lands in 1948 by an abrogation of the Standstill Agreement a la Jammu and Kashmir.
The catch in Balochistan is that the Khan of Kalat had moved a resolution in the legislative assembly of his fiefdom that opted for independence in keeping with the British act of according the princely State of Kalat independence before the partition plan was implemented in India. Therefore, the Khan’s signature obtained on the Instrument of Accession as drafted by Jinnah under the barrel of the gun was null and void maintain the Balochis. And they have been steadfast in their opposition to the Government in Rawalpindi/Islamabad. In every respect it is an indigenous uprising marked often by the blowing up of gas pipelines leading out of the Sui gasfield to Sindh in the south and Punjab and NWFP in the north causing disruptions in industries and households. Much of Pakistan’s Frontier Constabulary and Army has been tied down in counter-insurgency operations in Balochistan.
This factor has both Pakistan and China worried. The proposed China-Pakistan Economic Corridor from Xianjiang to Gwadar on the Makran coast will have to traverse the whole breadth of Balochistan. Already the Chinese People’s Liberation Army has inducted (by US estimates) up to 9000 troops disguised as technicians and engineers to protect the multiplex project –road, rail and pipelines – traversing the Gilgit-Baltistan region of the former princely State of Jammu and Kashmir because of local resistance.
Given the fact that Pakistan has refused to allow Indian goods and services to traverse its territory through the Attari/Wagah checkposts in Punjab to Afghanistan and beyond to the Commonwealth of Independent States it would be appropriate for India to encourage local disaffection against the Economic Corridor. The Baloch have proved that they can be a formidable hurdle. Pakistan credits Brahamdag Bugti of being the leader of the Baloch Republican Army which has scored several hits on the radar installation at Gwadar and within the city as well as in the marketplace at Dera Bugti during 2015. The Baloch Republican Army has a special allergy towards foreign direct investments channeled through the government of Pakistan. From the Indian point of view such disruptions that lead to the dysfunction of the corridor would be welcome. This could become a permanent feature if the Balochis manage to win independence much in the manner that Bangladesh did.
All this could have a fallout on India’s attempt to secure a right of way through the Chahbahar seaport and the Zaranj-Delaram hightway it helped construct for passage to Afghanistan and beyond.
The Kalasha of Chitral….. Kalasha (Kalasha: Kaĺaśa, Nuristani: Kasivo) or Kalash, are a Dardic indigenous people residing in the Chitral District of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. They speak the Kalasha language, from the Dardic family of the Indo-Aryan branch, and are considered a unique tribe among the Indo-Aryan peoples of Pakistan.
But the geopolitics of the region is changing at a rapid rate. By making known its desire to be part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, Iran has indicated that it would not like it to be disrupted at any point along its route even as it traverses through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir or troublesome Balochistan.
If India is seen to favour Brahamdag Bugti, Iran may not take too kindly to it. India will have to take Iran into confidence about its intentions. If Iran shuts off the Chahbahar project India will have no other option left but to ship its exports to Europe through the Suez Canal. At the end of it the ISIS may be waiting.
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