Should India Take Up the Cause of Independence of Balochistan?
| Rohit – Copy Editor cum Reporter – IOP, Delhi - 03 Jun 2019

By Shambhavi  Mani

Balochistan is burning. Pakistan’s most important balochistan is on fire - emotionally, socially and politically. Pakistan is trying to crush the Baloch movement by butchering the local people. Baloch leaders are openly blaming the Pakistani security forces for this state of affairs. There is a deep sense of grief, alienation and anger with an overlay of traditional Baloch chivalry, honour and commitment to their land and community.

On 17 thApril, 2019 fourteen people were shot dead by unidentified gunmen after being offloaded from the bus which was routed till Karachi from Gwadar. This recent incident brings up the question of the insurgencies and separatist movements which has been taking place for more than seven decades now is in the limelight again.

Balochistan is a province in the western region of Pakistan. It is the largest state geographically but in terms of demography it is scarcely populated. Being rich in minerals and natural resources, Balochistan is economically very important to Pakistan. Strategically. The state along with the Sindh province saves Pakistan from being a landlocked country like Uzbekistan orTajakistan.

Tracing the history of Balochistan, the Baloch nationalist struggle is centred on the ‘Khanate of Kalat’ established in the year 1666. In 1839, British government invaded the region established their supremacy in the region. Since the nationalist struggle for independence from British was widely spreading in the entire Indian subcontinent, this region did not remain untouched. In the 20th century, the middle class harboured hope for the freedom of the Balochsfrom the British. They formed a nationalist movement under the name of Anjuman-e-ittehad-e- Balochistan in 1931. TheAnjuman transformed into Kalat state national party in 1939 and was declared illegal by the British government. This led to the political alliance of BalochistanMuslim League with Muslim League in India and the Ajmat-e-Watan with Indian NationalCpngress. Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who was the leader of the separationist movement in India and also had been lawyer to the ruler of Balochistan was able to bring reform in Balochistan to bring it at par with other provinces of British India.

However, due to the demographic as well as geographic compulsion the inclusion of Balochistan in the independent India was not possible, therefore encouraging the separatist movements in Balochistan.  Even after the Kalat declared independence of Balochistan in 1947, after a year he signed Treaty of Accession with the Pakistan government against the will of his state’s legislature.(Chawla, Prelude to the Accession of the Kalat State to Pakistan in 1948: An Appraisal, 2012)

In the year 2016, when Prime Minister NarendraModi addressed the Indian citizens on 15th August, the mention about human rights violation in Balochistan in his speech indicates that India has not forgotten the issue of Balochistan. Modi’s mention about Balochistan was heavily criticised by the Pakistani government. (PTI, 2018) As mentioned above the region is rich in natural resources, leading the Pakistani government along with the Chinese government to extract the resources from the region.

Moreover, due to the increasing number of the insurgencies and attacks on Chinese engineers, Beijingis concerned about the law and order situation in the region.Balochs rebels believe that the China is militarily supporting the Pakistani army in its effort to crush the Baloch insurgency. (Choudhary, 2019)There has been massive destruction of Chinese assets by the insurgentsof the Balochistan Liberation Army(ithas been declared as a terrorist organisation by Pakistani Government) which have caused heavy loss to China, the Chinese in  this region works under special security and have restrictions on their movements.(Choudhary, 2019)

The presence of China in this region has been a cause for concern to India since Balochistan borders the Indian state. Not only Chinese concern India has been concerned with the issue of Balochistan since the time of independence, but no substantial steps were taken by India even after Pakistan pressing the Kashmir button repeatedly. However, AvinashPaliwal claims that during the 1970’s , junior level Indian Intelligence officers were actively involved in operations in Balochistan. (Paliwal, 2017). According to Malik Siraj Akbar, a Baloch journalist living in exile, there is a consensus in Pakistani authorities to allege that India is behind the insurgency in Balochistan without feeling need to share evidence for Indian involvement. (Akbar, 2015)

Meanwhile, the Indian authorities have brushed aside the allegations made by Pakistan of helping the insurgents. On the other hand, the officials said that it isn’t feasible for India to help since the only way to reach there is through the sea. Even inan interview given to Malik Siraj Akbar, BrahamdaghBugti stated that he will readily accept the aid by Indian government if provided. Nevertheless, with India’s increasing foothold in Afghanistan since last decade has given it an opportunity to overcome these geographical barriers. India’s expanding reach in Afghan territory could be a launching pad for India. (Bhatt, 2018)

In the year 2016, Kulbhushan Jadhav a former Indian navy officer, was arrested on the account that he was spying for the Indian government with an intention to disrupt and destabilise the peace of Balochistan. A video was released confirming the same. Whereas, India has refuted the claims and said that Kulbhushan was arrested after retirement in Iran. The matter is still with International Court of Justice. (Dixit, 2016)

If there was a presence of Indian spy in Balochistan it is a cause of concern for Pakistan. However, the question still lies whether India should interfere in Balochistan or not?

There are some concrete reasons why India should be concerned with what’s happening in Balochistan. Firstly, China’s increasing involvement anywhere near Indian territory should alarm India. Secondly, it will keep Pakistan’s security forces off balance while they are supporting for Kashmiri separatism. Thirdly, India and Balochs are natural allies since they share the same enemy. (Baloch, 2019)

Conclusion

India has always upheld the cause of Human Rights, at least in rhetoric, but it the issue of Balochistan is not only about human rights, its also about a sovereign territory of an independent country. India, while questioning the human rights issue in Balochistan should also remember the ongoing crisis of Kashmir. However, due to China’s increasing interest in Balochistan India can also not turn a blind eye towards its neighbour.

Author Shambhavi Mani is FPRC Intern & Student, Miranda House, Delhi University.

 


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