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Balochistan is no Kashmir



By Imtiaz Gul

Friday Times, August 19, 2016


The August 8 attack in Quetta kicked up a storm over the “effectiveness” of Pakistan’s anti-terror National Action Plan. It also refocused attention on the possible Indian hand in it, as suggested by provincial and federal ministers. Then Daesh and Jamaat ul Ahrar both claimed responsibility, further obfuscating the identity of the real perpetrators.

Viewed from a historical perspective, Modi’s current invective against Pakistan can perhaps at best be characterized as the result of a self-serving juvenile attitude and at worst a denial of historical realities. His attempts to draw parallels between the anti-government movements or human rights’ violations in Balochistan and Kashmir are both ludicrous as well as illogical. Consider:

First, the history of political excesses and injustices by Islamabad and Rawalpindi notwithstanding, Balochistan is a fully integrated federating unit of Pakistan. Since the late 1960s predominantly Baloch leaders—from Sardar Attallah Mengal to Akbar Bugti to Zulfiqar Magsi to the Jams, Jamalis and Sanaullah  Zehri—have been ruling the province.

There is truth in the perspective that the military establishment wronged the people of Balcohistan and has the province firmly in its clutches. But it is also true that most of the ruling elites in the predominantly tribal Balochistan comprise nawabs, sardars, jams, almost all of who are divided into fiefdoms with little inclination for inclusive governance.

Second, Kashmir still remains very much alive as a conflict by virtue of two 1948/49 UN Security Council resolutions and the special status accorded to it under the Article 370 of the Indian constitution, thanks to the commitment that modern India’s founding father Jawahar Lal Nehru gave to the international community at the UN.

Third, the history of India-Pakistan dialogue highlights a glaring denial of the BJP and Modi’s current position on Kashmir; the phrase Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) constitutes an essential part of the Indo-Pak conversation whether at the level of prime ministers, foreign ministers or foreign secretaries.

It began with prime minister Nehru’s reiteration of the plebiscite pledge in a telegram to the Pakistani premier on Nov 3, 1947 saying “… we have agreed on [an] impartial international agency like the United Nations, supervising any referendum,” followed by several other commitments on Kashmir in and outside India. Take also the Tashkent Declaration of 1965, the Simla Agreement of 1972, the accords on the Ceasefire Line and the Line of Control, at least another 20 post-summit joint statements until the 2009 meeting at Sharm el Sheikh.

Is it logical to gloss over and forget this history to the detriment of Kashmiris, several dozens of who have been killed and dozens others blinded by pellets since the latest violence erupted after the July 8 killing of Burhan Wani?

Fourth, what Modi and his cohorts are saying about Balochistan reflects their long held strategy. In fact, the Indian security establishment currently subscribes to a school of thought (include National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Satish Nambiar, G. Parthasarthy and Ved Marwah) that believes in a coercive approach when it comes to Pakistan. In the weekly India Today cover story titled ‘How to tackle an obstinate Pakistan’ from 2009 consider the following advice from experts: The dialogue should continue if for nothing else but to create a facade that we are not shying away from talks (Satish Nambiar). We have our leverage in Balochistan and in some other parts of Pakistan, we must retaliate quietly but firmly and make the right diplomatic noises to cover it (Ved Marwah). We want to have a dialogue over Kashmir and people in Pakistan should not worry about anything that the Indian Army will do. We secured Bangladesh and handed it over to them to run their own country (Ajit Doval). The bottom line is: teach Pakistan a lesson and make it forget Kashmir.

Modi’s Independence Day speech prompted former Indian External Affairs minister Salman Khurshid to argue that by mentioning Balochistan the “government is ruining its case on Azad Kashmir. Is Balochistan a part of India?” He went on to say: “We do this in private conversations… between diplomats and leaders… and convey our concerns. We don’t make these pronouncements as policy pronouncements.” The Modi-led BJP’s subversion of history would not have sat well with Nehru.

Back in October 2013, Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti had demanded that New Delhi implement the recommendations of five Working Groups constituted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to give relief to people in J&K. But Modi and Co appear to be in denial mode; they deny having a hand in Balochistan but equate it to Kashmir. They feign innocence but know that former army chief General VK Singh had created a Technical Services Division for covert operations in Pakistan after the Mumbai attacks.

All this is indeed part of a proxy war, which is all too obvious to foreign observers too. In his 2013 Brookings essay, “A Deadly Triangle” British historian William Dalrymple speaks of an “Indo-Pak proxy war, and it’s going on right now (in Afghanistan)”. To underline the Pakistan army’s pre-occupation with the Indian presence in Afghanistan, he relies on a 2011 quote by former Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani: “Strategically, we cannot have an Afghan army on our western border which has an Indian mindset and capabilities to take on Pakistan.”

Small wonder that a senior British diplomat told Dalrymple in Islamabad that, “Pakistan-watchers are unanimous that, while Kayani is mindful of the Taliban threat in his own country, his burning obsession is still India’s presence in Afghanistan. At the moment, Afghanistan is all [Kayani] thinks about and all he wants to talk about. It’s all he gets briefed about and it’s his primary focus of attention.”

Similarly, in an August 13 article in Forbes, Charles Tiefer too speaks about an ongoing India-Pakistan proxy war. Tiefer described meetings between General John Nicholson, the commander in charge of US forces in Afghanistan, NSA Ajit Doval and Defense Secretary G. Mohan Kumar as “a joint war command for deciding India’s course in the proxy war”. On the occasion Nicholson said that military training by India for thousands of Afghan security personnel had helped that country in enhancing its military capability.

“The US and the Afghans want more, as well as spare parts for Russian-made military equipment, to be used in part against the Islamist network built up by Pakistan called the Haqqanis (in Afghanistan). Every aspect of this cries: ‘Proxy War’,” Tiefer wrote. Then he recalls a Modi-President Obama summit on counter-terrorism. Sure enough, just as Modi and Obama had said at the top civilian level, this new announcement by Nicholson and the top Indian defense officials was expressly directed not only at the Haqqani network, and Islamic State, but also at Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-i-Mohammed. Nicholson noted they all had sanctuaries in Pakistan.

As long as India, Pakistan and Afghanistan are at odds, terror will keep hitting us all however effective NAP may be. The arrested alleged Indian Navy officer Kulbushan Yadav provides as much a glimpse of the Indian part of the proxy war in Pakistan as did Raymond Davis of the American CIA’s network in the country until the latter’s arrest in January 2011.

Imtiaz Gul is the executive director of the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies

Email: imtiaz@crss.pk