Jul 28, 2009

Balochistan and India

Hamid Mir

Why Manmohan Singh is under fire in India? He is the first ever Indian prime minister who is being blamed by the Indian opposition and media for surrendering to Pakistan in Sharm el-Sheikh. Many Indians are not happy over the reference of Balochistan in the joint statement released in Sharm el- Sheikh after the meeting of Indian and Pakistani prime ministers. Some Indians think that Manmohan stabbed them in the back by accepting the Indian interference in Balochistan. There are reports that Pakistani prime minister pressurised Manmohan in Sharm el-Sheikh by handing over a dossier of alleged Indian cross-border terrorism in Balochistan and that was how Indian prime minister was forced to accept the word Balochistan in the joint statement.I was present in Sharm el-Shekh. I remember that many Indian journalists were shocked after reading the joint statement. They started asking me that why Balochistan is mentioned in the statement? In fact many of them were not aware like many common Indians that what is going on in Balochistan. Within a few hours I started receiving calls from many Indian TV channels that what evidence was shown by Pakistan to Manmohan Singh about the alleged Indian involvement in Balochistan? In fact the Pakistani prime minister did mention Balochistan to Manmohan Singh but he never handed over any dossier to his Indian counterpart.The situation in Balochistan came under detailed discussion during the first meeting of the foreign secretaries in the evening of July 14 in Sharm el-Sheikh which took place two days before the meeting of Manmohan and Yousaf Raza Gilani. Pakistani foreign secretary Salman Bashir told Shiv Shankar Menon that India must delink the talks from terrorism otherwise Pakistan will be forced to produce at least “three Indian Ajmal Kasab’s” in front of international media who were directly or indirectly part of the terrorist activities in Balochistan and Pakistan will easily establish that Indian consulate in Afghan city of Kandhar is actually a control room of all the terrorist activities organised by the separatist Balochistan Liberation Army. Salman Bashir told Indian foreign secretary that both Pakistan and India cannot afford a blame game right now. If Pakistan will come out with evidence that Indians are responsible for attacking Chinese engineers in the Gwadar port city it may damage Indian credibility on one side but it will also spread more anti-India feelings in Pakistan and extremist forces will be the ultimate beneficiaries. First of all this new blame game will only help those extremist forces who successfully organised attacks in Mumbai on Nov 26, 2008, just to derail the India-Pakistan peace process. Secondly it will also harm relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The US does not want any tensions between Islamabad and Kabul at this stage because NATO forces are trying their best to conduct a new presidential election in Afghanistan in coming few weeks. Thirdly the PPP led coalition government is aware that Balochistan is not a serious dispute like Jammu and Kashmir, it’s a problem of provincial rights and instead of internationalising the problem Islamabad should address the problem realistically. Islamabad cannot get away by just blaming India for unrest in Balochistan. Behind the scene talks with many Baloch militants are going on and good news may come out soon in this regard. Pakistan is making noise against the Indian involvement in Balochistan insurgency in a very careful, well-calculated and “limited manner.” Recently a prominent US magazine Foreign Affairs (March 2009) published the report of a roundtable discussion on the causes of instability in Pakistan. Christine Fair of RAND Corporation clearly said in that discussion that “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.”This allegation came from a very credible American scholar who recently visited Indian consulate in Zahedan. Now where is Zahedan? It is the capital of Iranian province Sistan-o-Balochistan bordering Pakistan. More than two million Balochis live in the Iranian side of Balochistan. Iran is building a big port of Chabahar in the same area with the active help of India. Top Iranian leaders have alleged many times that American CIA is supporting Iranian Balochis to destabilise the Islamic Republic. Famous American journalist Seymour Hersh admitted in July 2008 that Bush administration gave million of dollars to a separatist Iranian group “Jandallah” which is responsible for violence in Iranian part of Baluchistan.The presence of China in Pakistani Balochistan is also a problem for US administration. The Chinese are accused of using Gwadar as a listening post for monitoring US military activities in the Persian Gulf. If Pakistan will play India card in Balochistan, many anti-US forces in Pakistan will ask that why Pakistan is silent over the role of CIA in Baluchistan which is using Jandallah against Iran? We must know that Balochis are Kurds of South Asia. Kurds are divided in Iran, Turkey and Iraq while the Balochis are divided in Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. Separatist groups in Pakistan and Iran want the unification of the Baloch areas which is not acceptable to both the countries. Musharraf gave the Gwadar port city to Chinese for development in 2003.That was the beginning of a new problem. Three Chinese engineers were killed and nine were injured on May 3rd 2004 in a remote controlled car bomb attack. Two months after that incident, Pakistan claimed on July 2nd 2004 first time that India was involved in that bomb attack. Local Baluchis were not happy over the employment of many non-Baluchis in the main development projects of their province. They also wanted a fairer share of royalties generated by the production of natural gas in their province. Instead of addressing their griviences, Musharraf regime launched a third military operation against them in 2005 which further aggravated the situation. Why Indians must discuss Balochistan with Pakistan? Balochistan will be the route of at least two multinational gas pipelines. One will come from Turkmenistan to Pakistan via Afghanistan; the other will come from Iran to Pakistan. India could be a beneficiary of both the gas pipelines. These two pipelines could be extended from Multan to New Delhi. I think there is no harm for India to discuss Balochistan with Pakistan because stability in Balochistan will ultimately benefit India.Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, China and India should join hands with each other, stop proxy wars in Kashmir and Baluchistan as soon as possible and they can change the fate of the whole region.

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