India-Pakistan and Balochistan: What’s the Narrative?
During the Independence Day speech, PM mentioned Gilgit-Baltistan, PoK and Balochistan. The statement came after the comments of the all-party meet which was held over Kashmir issue. India has been traditionally wary of mentioning Balochistan, especially in its narrative of Indo-Pakistan relations. In 2009, when former PM had agreed to mention of Balochistan and the unrest there, he was chastised by the political parties as well as commentators.
A changed strategy?
It is a departure from the past. But it has to be seen in a context. It cannot be said that Balochistan was never mentioned in the past. The sharm el sheikh joint statement was in the context of Pakistan’s charge that India is interfering in the Balochistan affairs by fomenting trouble in the region. In this particular case, the Indian PM is informing Pakistan and the international community that India will simply not accept Pakistan’s continued interference in J&K affairs and in particular what has happened after killing of a terrorist.
It is welcome departure from the kind of reactivity and passivity to an extent which the Indian state was showing towards Pakistan’s interference in India’s internal affairs.
The first reference of PoK and Balochistan came into the all-parties meet on issue of Jammu and Kashmir. And this is the context which should not be overlooked.
Balochistan for Kashmir situation?
If the statements are made wrt to telling Pakistan that even India can counter it on its state’s internal matters, it is not an ideal policy. Baluchistan should have been raised long back. In 2009, Chinese had come into PoK and therefore India thought to look at the Indo-Pak relation in much wider context. If it is an indication of shift in the policy, it will have to be backed up by concrete measures which are still to be seen. A white paper on PoK can be issued, issue of detail records of human rights violations in Balochistan should be taken it to the international fora.
Mention of Balochistan in the past would have brought severe reactions, but the context in which the PM has made the statement, the Indian commentators should not be shy about it. This is a very definite message and a signal. The interpretation will depend but it is a signal in conveying that in terms of human rights violations, the Pakistanis have to mend their ways. The world has to know about the deteriorated quality of lives in Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan and PoK. Whichever government comes to power, there are no political freedoms, they do not have a say in the elections and this has been going on for years.
All these years the Indian government did not have concrete policy to not even mention on these areas. But, Pakistan has been very keen to allege all sorts of covert activities and operative operations by Indian agencies which have been a myth so long. India used to ignore it but Pakistan brought forward these allegation in various ways and more aggressively in recent past.
A reaction or change in larger policy?
It is not just a reaction. It could indicate a change. There currently seems to be a tactical move in the sense that asking Pakistan not to occupy a high-morale ground on the human rights question. Nothing else connects India’s Kashmir, PoK, Gilgit-Baltistan and Balochistan except human rights.
Mere mention of PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan would have served the purpose of countering the Pakistani propaganda of human rights violations in India’s Kashmir. The Pakistan PM wrote a letter to UN Secretary and UN Human Rights Commission. The UN Human Rights Commission made a request to government of India to permit them visit to India’s Kashmir. (Government has denied).
Pakistan calls it Azad Kashmir because it doesn’t consider the people residing there to be the citizens of Pakistan. But, India considers them as citizens of India and also has their share of seats in J&K assembly. Thus, the only matter that should be discussed with Pakistan should be on vacating the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.
But, bringing Baluchistan up, which could have been done covertly, and now putting up it publicly would be too much to bite and digest and swallow.
The caution so far in India in not speaking about Balochistan was that it will be used by Pakistan to bash the Balochistan independence of freedom movement and this is what Pakistanis did after 2009 by letting its army loose on them. Those who were fighting for Balochistan were all dubbed as anti-national and agents of India. Thus, there was an understandable caution to see that Balochis did not suffer unduly at the hands of Pakistanis.
India has never and will never contest its claim on Balochistan and neither has it said that it is not a part of Pakistan. The raising of issue was to give a signal to Pakistan that India’s patience is now coming to an end. The signal is that if the Pakistanis continue with their present policy of intervention in the state of J&K, it will not be possible to conduct business as usual. To solve the internal issue of J&K, Pakistan has to be kept out of it as Pakistan rules by fear.
If India is not present in Balochistan, then as a nation-state, it will be wrong on part of India to not speak against human rights violations. India has empathy for Balochis and also has some policy outlines for them since independence because, Kashmir and Balochistan have some similarity in history. (Check AIR debate)
International reactions and China factor
The international community is expected to put pressure on Pakistan and also tell India to cool off. Thereafter, India has to show the stamina to stay on course. India till now had been the ‘good country’ and hence, there used to be pressure all the time to maintain the peace process.
The first international reaction is expected to be from China because the CPEC which is constructed through PoK and will also pass through Balochistan. There may not be conventional war with china and Pakistan at the same time, but India will have to face them both in Balochistan. The economic corridor is not a challenge to India. What is a worry that Pakistan- China equation because of it. The Chinese presence in PoK has been on table since 2009 in India. After the Quetta attack, the Pakistani establishment claimed that it was directed against CPEC. So the Pakistan has already brought China into these matters. However, both in PoK and Balochistan have shown resistance to CPEC.
Failure of PM’s previous policy of last two years?
To make a full assessment of present course of actions, the future developments have to be known. For the time being, the PM has sent a message that the same policy of past two years of wanting friendship with Pakistan will not be continued if there is no change of behaviour from Pakistan’s side.
Connecting the dots:
Discuss the critical phases on India-Pakistan relations.