The reference to Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir by Indian Prime Minister in his address to the nation from ramparts of Red Fort on 15 August seems to have had the desired effect. The contours of the impact on regional landscape are now slowly emerging.
The Pakistan atrocities in Balochistan were rarely reported due to its remoteness and a miniscule population fighting for their legitimate rights.
The Pakistan government, least expecting India to raise the issue of Balochistan, has been shaken out of its slumber to denounce the reference as a proof of Indian support to covert activities in the region.
The statement however has had a magical effect on the Baloch nationals living in exile and fighting for a rightful resolution of brutal oppression unleashed by Pakistani state over the last seven decades of its existence. World wide support for the numerous demonstrations by Baloch refugees in Europe and North America and protests by them have brought into focus the situation in Balochistan and has awakened the international community to dismal Human Rights situation and atrocities by Pakistan in its largest state which it has been carrying out with impunity.
The Pakistan atrocities in Balochistan were rarely reported due to its remoteness and a miniscule population fighting for their legitimate rights. The statement has had the desired effect with a number of Pakistani activists and scholars highlighted to the abysmal state of affairs in their analysis of situation in Balochistan asking for early resolution of the conflict with Baloch people, including addressing their legitimate grievances which have been simmering for a long time.
Pakistan’s reference to Indian instigation to Baloch nationalists is unlikely to cut much ice with international community which is well aware of the ground situation but has remained aloof. The recent incident of killing of 74 lawyers in Quetta in a suicide bombing, which many Pakistan leaders pointed to Indian agencies, was almost immediately negated by claims of bombings by ISIS and Taliban faction of Jamat-ul-Ahrar.
The Chinese scholars feel that any ‘asymmetric activity’ similar to what Pakistan propagates in its neighbouhood is likely to threaten development of CPEC and will see Chinese getting involved.
The reference to Balochistan and Gilgit Baltistan by the Prime Minister was also indicating to two important fault lines in Pakistan. Firstly, to the state of affairs relating to unstable internal situation within its polity and secondly as a counter the growing Pakistan-China axis and indicating to an unstable situation for the development of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) since the project passes the region of Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan occupied Kashmir and Balochistan.
Alluring towards the second fault line, the statement of Hu Shisheng, Director of Institute of South and Southeast Asian and Oceanic Studies at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations in an interview to a news agency is significant wherein he referred to Indian PM’s speech as ‘ latest concern’ for China for proceeding with CPEC. The statement is important in context of think tank’s affiliations with Chinese Ministry of State Security.
Equally important is the fact that Chinese scholars have expressed apprehensions to the fact that it is the first time wherein India has openly made a reference to Balochistan, having kept itself out of the troubled region in spite of allusion to Indian role in fomenting insurgency in Balochistan by Pakistan leadership and agencies. The Chinese scholars also feel that any ‘asymmetric activity’ similar to what Pakistan propagates in its neighbouhood is likely to threaten development of CPEC and will see Chinese getting involved.
As is well known Chinese workers have repeatedly been targeted in Pakistan due to ongoing Baloch insurgency as well as sectarian conflict leading to killing of Chinese workers on a number of occasions, in particular those working at Gwadar port. Similarly the proposed CPEC corridor of 2395 Kilometers from Gwadar to Kashgar faces threats from Pakistani based Baloch, Taliban and now ISIS insurgents within Pakistan as well as Chinese Uyghur insurgents in Xinjiang region impinging on its ability to complete the project on time and alongwith its ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative. With the latest developments the Baloch separatists and militants are likely to increase their activities against Pakistani and Chinese interests in the region.
The move of Prime Minister also points to a decisive shift in India’s policy to deal with the situation head on rather than wait for the situation to resolve through passive means that India had adopted so far.
Another important factor that renders the situation unstable for development of CPEC is the failure of peace talks between Pakistan supported and nurtured Quetta Shura and QCG with Afghan withdrawing from the initiative due to repeated attacks on targets inside Afghanistan from Pakistan based Afghan Taliban thereby pointing to the likely instability in the region. Meanwhile Ex Afghan President Karzai’s statement during his recent visit to India openly supporting Prime Minister Modi’s reference to Balochistan will definitely rile Pakistan leadership which has been accusing India and Afghanistan for supporing insurgency in Balochistan.
India is also opposed to the project and has also conveyed its apprehensions to the Chinese since the project passes through Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. The reference to all the three regions and instability in the region therefore impinge on the ability of Chinese to complete the project in a time bound manner. This uncertainly would thus raise tensions for the Chinese.
Indian Prime Minister has certainly made a bold move by mentioning Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir in his Independence Day speech, forced by Pakistan’s blatant interference in Jammu and Kashmir. This is likely to see emergence of fault lines within Pakistan’s handling of situation in Balochistan.
The move of Prime Minister also points to a decisive shift in India’s policy to deal with the situation head on rather than wait for the situation to resolve through passive means that India had adopted so far. Pakistan’s open use of terrorist proxies is sooner or later likely to run out of steam once it is confronted with an unstable situation on its own soil. The move is also likely to put question marks over the safety of Chinese investments in Gwadar and along CPEC corridor which India has been opposing vehemently due to its claim over Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.