Monday , April 23 2018

Balochistan Conflict, India and Modi

Balochistan Conflict, India and Modi

Civil war – we have heard of this numerous times in history and we face it even today. Good thing though is that civil wars don’t take a global stage for armed conflict. Almost every nation in this world has a past or present riddled with civil war. India’s neighbor Pakistan is no different.

For several decades now, Pakistan has been dealing with a civil war which erupted because of Pakistan’s anti-peace strategy since the day the nation was born. This civil war that Pakistan faces today is known as the Balochistan conflict. It remained an untold story or mostly unheard until Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi broke the Indian political taboo of not speaking about or interfering in other nation’s internal state matters and brought up the issue of Balochistan during his Independence speech.

PM Modi’s use of the ‘B’ word scratched and pressed the ailed nerve of Pakistan – a nation that stashes N-bombs but fails to give fuel, food and electricity to its citizens – a nation that begs for foreign aid in name of development and spends the money in nurturing terrorism – a nation looked upon by even sensible nation in the world as a threat to world peace!

So, what is Balochistan conflict?

In order to understand the Balochistan conflict, we need to understand the history that led to this conflict. Only then we will understand the true nature of Pakistan’s civil war and get to know about atrocities of Pakistani government and its military.

Before we go into history, we need to take a look at demographic boundaries of Balochistan. As of today, entire Balochistan is made up of four fragments:

  • In west it takes up Iran’s province called Sistan o Baluchestan.
  • In the east it takes up Pakistan’s province of Balochistan.
  • In northwest it is made of Helmand province of Afghanistan.
  • In the south, Gulf of Oman wraps up the border of Balochistan.

Most of the people who inhabit Balochistan actually live in the area which is currently within the borders or Pakistan. Interestingly, most of the terrain of Balochistan is made up of deserts and mountains. The inhabitable flat lands fall under the Pakistani area. If we look into Pakistan’s demography, 44% of land area of Pakistan is made up of Balochistan. That’s nearly half. However, only 5% of entire population of Pakistan actually lives in Balochistan. Even worse, that 44% of land area, which is Balochistan is actually, Pakistan’s least developed area.

It is not that Balochistan cannot be developed or it is super poor. On the contrary, Balochistan is very rich in natural resources like oil and minerals. Experts opine that if proper utilization takes place, Balochistan has the potential of becoming second Dubai.

Pakistan however, doesn’t seem to have any interest in developing the area. It has rather resorted to exploitation and suppression. Balochis on the other had always been autonomous and they feel that they have been suppressed. They always wanted to get independent of Pakistan and after the separation of Bangladesh, Balochistan nationals want to get free as well.

Also, since Pakistan is collaborating with China to build industrial estates and Gawdar port, the area will soon be inhabited by people from other places. It is highly likely that when that happens, Balochis will be reduced to minority. Worst part – they will become minority on their own land.

Balochistan province that was annexed to Pakistan contains mostly of Baloch ethno-linguistic group. These people are also found in parts of Balochistan which are under Afghanistan and Iran. These people in Pakistan feel that they have been suppressed but the dominant Pakistani Punjabis.

Interestingly Balochis are socially, culturally and ethnically completely different from Pakistanis. The nationalism movement in Balochistan holds the view that religion should not become the instrument for formation of a nation. Instead, they think that ethnic loyalty is what should be the basis of formation of a nation. This is why they are demanding a new nation with more autonomy.

It is this demand that has led to insurgencies, which over years, culminated into a Civil War that became popular as Balochistan conflict.

Now, let us take a tabular look at the history quickly to understand what happened in past.

Year History – What happened?
1666 Khanate of Kalat formed by Mir Ahmad. Khanate of Kalat was basically a princely state.
1758 Afghan paramountcy accepted by Mir Naseer Khan I. This is when Khanate of Kalat’s boundaries stretched. In the west it went all the way up to Bandar Abbas and in the east it went all the way up to Dera Ghazi Khan.
1869 British primacy was established in the region by Robert Sanderman – a political agent of Great Britain.
1931 Anjuman-e-Ittehad-e-Balochistan was formed. It was a nationalist movement, which intended for freedom of Balochistan from control of the British.
Somewhere in between Anjuman-e-Ittehad-e-Balochistan was later transformed into KSNP or Kalat State National Party. This party spearheaded the freedom movement against British imperial rule.
1939 The British rulers tagged KSNP as illegal. The result was that the British imperial rulers exiled all activities and active leaders. As a result new political parties were formed.
1939 Balochistan Muslim League and Anjuman-i-Watan – two new political parties were formed. Indian National Congress and Anjuman-i-Watan made an alliance and Balochistan Muslim League made an alliance with Muslim League in the very same year.
Somewhere in between Muslim League received funding from Balochistan and acquired Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s services as Kalat State’s Legal Adviser.
1947, August 4 Jinnah said that Kalat will receive its independence on August 5, 1947 and that Kalat will regain her status that it used to have all the way back in 1838.
1947, August 4 Another agreement was signed with sovereignty of Pakistan. That agreement had two articles. Article I stated that Pakistan government will accept Kalat as independent state and which will be of different status from Indian states. Article IV of the agreement stated that Kalat and Pakistan will have standstill agreement and Pakistan will be committed towards the responsibilities that British Government agreed with Kalat between 1839 and 1947 and that Pakistan will be politically, constitutional and legal successor.
15th August, 1947 Khanate of Kalat earned its independence on that day but at a great cost because Pakistan took over British Paramountcy.

Beginning of Balochistan Conflict

The beginning of the conflict?

During British rule, Balochistan was divided into 4 princely states. Of these 4 three were Kharan, Las Bela and Makran. All these three decided to join Pakistan in year 1947. Kalat declared independence under Ahmad Yar Khan, who was Kalat’s Khan. Yar Khan was pressurized by Muhammad Ali Jinnah to accept the rule of Pakistan but Yar Khan did not do that and stalled that for some time. In 1948 on March 27, Jinnah became impatient and ordered annexation of Kalat. The military annexation took place in the next month. Yar Khan was forced to sign accession treaty. However, Yar Khan’s brothers Muhammad Rahim and Agha Abdul Karim Baloch didn’t give up arms and started attacking Pakistan army using Dosht-e Jhalawan till 1950. However, Yar Khan was allowed by Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Jinnah’s successors to keep his title till the province was dissolved in year 1955.

The second conflict

The attack by Yar Khan’s brothers in 1948 was the first conflict. Later, the second conflict took place from 1958 to 1959 under the leadership of a man named Nawab Nauroz Khan. Nauroz Khan and the people who followed him started engaging Pakistan in guerrilla warfare. This did not last long and ended terribly for Nauroz Khan and his family. All his family members including nephews and sons were hanged to death on charges of treason. Nauroz Khan wasn’t hanged but he died later during his years of captivity.

The third conflict

This conflict started in 1963 and continued till 1969. It was led by Sher Muhammad Bijrani Mari. This conflict was a result of 1956’s new constitution which enacted the concept of One Unit. Instability and political disorder led to chaos and Pak army started building bases in Balochistan’s key area. Under the leadership of Mari, militants made bases over an ares of 72,000 kilometers and started guerrilla warfare. They attacked convoys and railway trucks and demanded revenue shares from Sui gas fields that Pakistan started exploiting. Pak army retaliated.

The fourth conflict

Conflicts kept happening and continued in 1970s. Eventually, Pak government ordered a full-scale military operation in year 1973. In that year, President Bhutto imposed martial law and dismantled Balochistan’s provincial governments on basis of treason. As a result of this, Balochistan People’s Liberation Front was created by Khair Bakhsh Marri. A guerrilla warfare ensued between BPLF and Pak army. Thousands of people died, mostly militants and few hundred Pak soldiers died as well. During this conflict however, Iran gave assistance to Pakistan and as a result, the separatists had to take heavy casualties.

The fifth and continuing conflict

Insurgents decided to attack again and in 2004, an attack took place on Gwadar Port. It was during this attack that 3 engineers from China died and 4 other Chinese people were injured. As a result, China became engaged. From 2004, a series of events happened including attack on President Pervez Musharraf in 2006 and later in 2009, Pak army was accused of murdering two nationalist leaders of Balochistan – Sher Muhammad and Lala Munir.

In 2009, Mir Suleiman Dawood – the Khan of Kalat openly declared himself as Balochistan’s ruler and announced Independent Balochistan’s Council which claimed the domains of Balochistan province and Sistan and also included Pakistan Balochistan.

These conflicts continue till date and human rights activists have actually accused Pakistan government for abusing human rights.

India Over Balochistan Conflicts

India maintained a stance of not interfering in internal matters of any country. However, when current Pakistani President Nawaz Sharif brought up the issue of Kashmir in his Independence day speech, India’s current PM, Narendra Modi, broke the long standing taboo of Indian politics and dropped the B-bomb on Pakistan while addressing India on her Independence day.

Without taking the name of Pakistan, Indian PM Modi spoke of human rights abuses taking place in Balochistan. The end result was that Pakistan is not having tough time hiding her face on the global arena.

Well, useless to say that India had hit Pakistan on its ailing nerve and Pakistan is having troubles digesting the pain that emanated out of that slight press. The result was that Pakistan went into retaliation mode and as expected, it replayed the same old rant of Kashmir wherein Sartaj Aziz, Foreign Affairs minister of Pakistan was quoted saying that India wants to divert world’s attention from tragedies taking place India-occupied Kashmir and hence, brought up the Balochistan issue.

While Sartaj Aziz made a political statement, Pak media representative Nadia Khan (a journalist by profession) resorted to taking the threat-route and warned people of Balochistan not to support Narendra Modi or even seek India’s help as it will be causing more damage.

Though the political wheel of Pakistan and even Pak media is all furious over PM Modi’s statement, Baloch nationals have some other song to sing. Nationalist organization inside Balochistan and even Balochs settled in Europe and America have welcomed the support of PM Modi, which came out of the blue.

The Baloch Hal – a leading newspaper in Balochistan – reported that even if PM Modi only tried to divert global attention from Kashmir, the statement he gave will open up paths for Balochistan to be heard on global stage. Editor of The Baloch Hal – Malik Siraj Akbar stated that for decades Balochistan had been trying to get international attention but all the pleas went unheard. PM Narendra Modi was the first ever person and India was the first ever nation to pick up the case of Balochistan on an international stage even if it was merely a tactical political move to offset Pakistan’s stance on Jammu and Kashmir.

Indians or PM Modi’s Balochistan Stand

How can the opposition Congress just let this scope escape? Congress was quick to point out that Modi simply ruined the case of India on the issue of PoK or Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. That’s typical Congress – which believes in dividing the nation instead of standing united on the global stage. What else to expect from Congress which is lead by a foreigner Sonia Gandhi, who still has dual citizenship? And talk of her son Rahul Gandhi… well, he becomes PM of India and India will be raped and pillaged to her very core!

BJP on the other hand states that Prime Minister Modi came up with a reply that suits the likes of Pakistan. The world knows that Pakistan has been meddling around in internal affairs of India in IoK – India Occupied Kashmir. However, PM Modi’s stand was not an interference in internal affairs of Pakistan. What Modi only did was that he pointed out abuses and violations of Human Rights that take place in Balochistan. Hundreds and thousands of cases of murder and rape are reported in Balochistan. Pakistan keeps on ignoring that but talks of human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir.

A game changer statement by PM Modi

Was PM Modi’s statement merely rhetorical? Possibly no! Possibly, it is a game changer in geopolitical arena where even China will be dragged in as India decides to up its ante in Balochistan. What does that mean?

It is a little more complex than saying that India is taking on China as well. To understand the situation, we need to go back in 2009 in a city called Sharm-el-Sheikh. The Indian PM and Pakistani PM back then met at Sharm-el-Sheikh and in a joint statement it was said that Pakistan holds some information in relation to threats in Balochistan and of course some other areas.

We need to say that Pakistan has been playing dirty politics for long and came up with accusations against India stating that India and R&AW (Research and Analysis Wing – India’s foreign spy agency) had been supporting Baloch insurgents. Pakistan clearly stated that Indian spies and of course Indian diplomats maintain relationships with insurgents in Balochistan by financing them. This accusation gave Pakistan three cards to play with:

  • It nicely managed to shadow out its internal problem from international attention by backing up a conspiracy that was purely external.
  • It managed to get West’s attention and managed to keep India out of Afghanistan.
  • It helped Pakistan to give ready-made response when India picked up Kashmir issue.

In Indian camp, those allegations were rejected as rubbish and India repeatedly asked Pakistan to provide with necessary proofs of the claimed Indian support to insurgents.

The Sharm-el-Sheikh statement of year 2009 led to a political turmoil back in India where Parliament almost turned into a volcano. Not only did opposing BJP but also sections of the then ruling Congress government simply pointed out that the Sharm-el-Sheikh was nothing but a sellout. The result of that statement was that the world was nearly convinced that India did support Baloch insurgents and that India admitted to that! As a result, the then PM Manmohan Singh found himself in a weaker position when it came to negotiations with Pakistan.

Current PM Narendra Modi showed high political IQ and took Pakistan’s accusation and converted it into a leverage. By mentioning Balochistan in his Independence day speech, PM Modi actually embraced what Pakistan was pushing for and clearly claimed that India will have a role in Balochistan. How so? Here is how:

  • If Pakistan can pick up India’s internal matters and take it to an international stage, India can do the same to Pakistan. Pakistan thinks that Balochistan is completely its internal matter and it should not be taken at an international stage but never thinks that likewise Jammu and Kashmir is India’s internal matter and it should not be taken to an international stage. So now, India is playing the exact same game that Pakistan did.
  • Pakistan talks of human right abuses in India occupied Kashmir. This is meddling with Indian internal affairs. Now India replied back by talking of human rights abuses in Balochistan.
  • Pakistan cultivated and still cultivates Kashmiri separatist constituency within the borders of India, why shouldn’t India do the same? She can also cultivate Baloch separatist constituency within borders of Pakistan.

Pakistan and India are still different. How? Well, Pakistan’s involvements with Kashmiri separatists is very tangible and visible while India only uttered about Balochistan. No one can say for sure whether India will take the words to a tangible level or not.

But where is China coming in? Let us talk of CPEC or China Pakistan Economic Corridor. This economic corridor will run straight through Balochistan and also through Pakistan occupied Kashmir. But the problem is that the whole of Jammu and Kashmir (that is both PoK and IoK) are clearly written down as India’s integral part in her parliamentary constitution. This means that PoK is not a valid part of Pakistan. It is only an occupied part which Pakistan literally stole from India and now there have been reports of Chinese soldiers and Chinese workers in that region.

By picking up Balochistan, India has sent China to her toes because the China Pakistan Economic Corridor’s most vital part in Balochistan. If Balochistan earns her independence then the CPEC will only stay a dream and Chinese will have to forget of getting into PoK as well. Of course China isn’t going to stay quiet because if Pakistan loses Balochistan, the economic goals of China and her attempts to stay Asia’s sole superpower will be halted. Not to forget, China has already invested $50 billion for the CPEC and now PM Modi bringing Balochistan on international stage will very well mean a huge loss for China. Beijing’s stand now is something worth watching. Now, with recent Pakistan-sponsored terrorist attacks in Uri in Indian Kashmir that killed 17 Indian soldier, China has something to think about.

India is about to retaliate on Uri attack and it may not be guns and bombs but rather water. India may decide to cut off water supply to Pakistan. In case you didn’t know, India and Pakistan agreed on Indus Water Treaty in presence of UN wherein, slightly over 80% of water from 6 India rivers goes to Pakistan while only little above 19% is used by India. Since this arrangement was based on mutual trust, India may now pull herself out of the treaty, cutting off water supply to Pakistan. This will mean, some of the biggest hydroelectric projects of Pakistan will come to a halt. Agriculture in Pakistan that depends on water supplied by India will come to and end! Pakistan will be destroyed economical. The blow back will be even bigger if American parliament passes the bill which proposed tagging Pakistan as a terrorist state. If that bill passes, Pakistan will not get foreign aid from USA or any of her friends. USA and her friendly countries (which includes India as well) will then cut off all international trade ties with Pakistan (complete halt of exports and imports). Pakistan’s economy will be reduced down to ashes. What will China do then?

Thus, PM Narendra Modi’s B-Bomb was possibly not just rhetorical. It had deeper meanings and the recent Uri attacks has only fortified Modi’s stand. It is a total game changer. Pakistan and her supporter China may now be cornered. What will happen in coming days will definitely be interesting!

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