“Today I want to specially honour and thank to some people from the ramparts of Red Fort. For the past few days the people of Baluchistan, the people of Gilgit, the people of Pakistan occupied Kashmir, the way their citizens have heartily thanked me, the way they have acknowledged me, the goodwill they have shown towards me, the people settled far across, the land which I have not seen, the people I have not met ever, but people settled at far across acknowledge the Prime Minister of India, they honour him, so it is an honour of my 125 crores countrymen, it is respect of my 125 crores countrymen and that is why owing to the feeling of this honour, I want to heartily thank the people of Baluchistan, the people of Gilgit, the people of Pakistan occupied Kashmir for having an expression of thankfulness.”
This was the Indian Prime Minister speaking on the occasion of India’s 70th Independence Day. This was just days after he said “The time has come when Pakistan shall have to answer to the world for the atrocities committed by it against people in Balochistan and PoK” in an all party meeting held on 12th of August 2016.
This is for the first time that an Indian Prime Minister has made such remarks on Balochistan which has been under brutal Pakistani occupation since independence. The Baloch people who for years are seeking Indian help in their struggle for freedom welcomed PM’s statement in the all party meeting.
Baloch Republican Party leader Brahamdagh Bugti tweeted
“We appreciate the statement of PM of India. Worlds largest democracy n being a responsible neighbor, India shd intervene in Balochistan.”
Brahamdagh Bugti is the grandson of prominent Baloch freedom fighter Nawab Akbar Bugti who was killed on orders of the then Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf in an airstrike.
Another prominent Baloch leader Hyrbyair Marri said India must extend support for Baloch freedom struggle. He said India should provide moral and diplomatic support to the Baloch and added that if the Govt of India officially invited him and offered support, he would certainly visit India.
The Baloch are calling on India to raise the Baloch issue at the UN and it will be interesting to see if India raises the issue at the UN General Assembly in September.
The Baloch have been fighting for freedom from Pakistani occupation ever since Mohammed Ali Jinnah sent his troops into the region to annex it in March 1948, although Balochistan was an independent nation and Jinnah had signed a standstill agreement with the ruler of the erstwhile kingdom of Kalat.
The Prime Minister’s statement on Balochistan indicates a dramatic shift in India’s policy towards Pakistan by raising an issue on what can be termed as an internal matter of Pakistan.
The reaction has been negative both from within opposition in India and from Pakistan. The Pakistanis expectedly said it only proves that India is involved in destabilizing Pakistan by backing the Baloch. Their foreign office said Modi had crossed the “red line”.
The opposition parties in India termed Modi’s stance as knee-jerk. However it might be a plan in the works. Early last year, India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval had said if Pakistan does another Mumbai, it will lose Balochistan.
Thankfully another Mumbai has not happened but Pakistan through its proxies with active support its state agencies has perpetrated numerous terror attacks in India, Gurdaspur and Pathankot being the big ones.
Pakistan has also been active in the recent violence in Kashmir after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist, Burhan Wani. Pakistanis glorified the terrorist including its Prime Minister, a fact reiterated by Indian PM during his I-Day speech in which he came down heavily on Pakistan. LeT founder and leader and UN declared terrorist said the Amir of LeT was in the funeral procession of Burhan Wani and that he had spoken to Wani just days before his killing.
So it’s entirely possible that the Modi government advised by NSA Doval has lowered the red line of a Mumbai like attack to trigger its plan on Balochistan to smaller but sustained terror attacks that India has seen in the last two years despite PM Modi’s efforts to mend fences and talk to Pakistan. India is now going to pressure Pakistan on the Baloch front
PM’s statement does not indicate India is going to support cessation of Balochistan by providing military support to the Baloch freedom fighters or get involved as we did for the liberation of Bangladesh as there was massive human rights violation and killing of 3 million Bengalis by the Pakistan Army which also led to 10 million refugees fleeing to India.
The humanitarian situation in Balochistan is no different from what happened in Bangladesh before its liberation from Pakistan which is a cause for concern and one which international community cannot turn a blind eye to as it did during Pakistan’s brutal killings of Bengalis in 1971.
India may more actively highlight the cause of Baloch people who have seen thousands of its people disappear or killed in the continued brutal occupation by Pakistan. The Prime Minister has developed good rapport with leaders of major countries and can use it to good effect. There have been many international intervention both under UN authorization and unilateral when the humanitarian situation in some countries reached breaking point.
The option of India actively helping the Baloch to fight the Pakistan Army as it did with Mukti Bahini of Bangladesh remains although sustaining such an operation will not be easy as we don’t share a common border like we did with Bangladesh. The Pakistanis already accuse India of arming the Baloch although it has failed to provide any evidence as none exist. This was said so by Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan’s former national security advisor and currently the advisor to Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif on foreign affairs in Pakistan’s Senate where he said dossiers provided to the US contain “pattern and narrative” but no material evidence about India’s role in Balochistan.
The situation in Balochistan can be compared to East Timor which became this century’s first independent country. East Timor was under Portuguese rule from the 16th century until November 1975 when it was forced out by East Timor’s freedom fighters. But 9 days later Indonesia invaded and annexed East Timor which triggered two decades long violence between the East Timorese and Indonesian military and pro Indonesian militias. In 1999, the UN sponsored referendum in East Timor which came after intense pressure from the international community led by Indonesia’s neighbor Australia, led to over 75% of the people voting for independence. In fact the seven decades old Baloch situation is far worse than what it was in East Timor.
Pakistan has managed to stay off the radar for its atrocities in Balochistan because it managed to keep itself useful for larger powers. Pakistan joined US led blocs of SEATO and CENTO. In the 1980s it was the frontline state for the US against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Post 9/11, it has maintained a similar position although it is now changing as its double game with the US is becoming more widely acknowledged so much so that the US Congress recently had a discussion titled Pakistan-Friend or Foe.
India should start a sustained campaign which in the future can lead to a situation where it has enough support to get a UN resolution passed to hold a UN monitored referendum in Balochistan. India will need major western countries led by the United States to see reason and not repeat the mistakes of the past as it did in 1971.
US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher has been speaking out for the Baloch. In 2012 he moved a resolution in the US Congress which said the Baloch have a historical right to self determination.
India should use its relations with US lawmakers where it is enjoying growing bipartisan support and is being called a key ally of the US, to pressure the US administration to take a tough line against Pakistan for Baloch independence especially when the US-Pak relations are at its lowest and there is little sympathy or support for Pakistan in the US.
The Baloch themselves should step up the political campaign to draw world attention to their plight. I have written in the past that the Baloch need to form a government in exile. They can approach the Indian government for a base for this government just as India is a base for Tibet’s government in exile.
Now that India has crossed what Pakistan calls “red line” on the Balochistan front, it cannot afford to take half hearted or half measures. There is no place in geopolitics for half measures. India also needs a larger Pakistan policy to put an end to the seven decade old menace that Pakistan is as Pakistan will certainly up its terror campaign against India.