India’s Baluchistan Mis-adventure

Given the geographical position of China along with its power and history of dispute with India, it will be absolutely difficult for India to keep Chinese position out of equation while taking any policy decision
India’s Baluchistan Mis-adventure
File Photo

While the situation in Kashmir continues to be anything but normal, India for over a month now has been busy raising the Baluchistan issue in every possible manner. Started by Mr. Modi, during his independence day speech, India all of a sudden has become a 'maseeha' for Baloches and a 'defender' of their human rights. It is very ironic that while Kashmir has been burning for more than two months and so many lives have been lost demanding their rights, India has launched a mis-adventure of batting for Baluchistan. Now that India has decided to come in open regarding its Baluchistan policy, there are serious questions being raised as to whether India is going to gain anything from this diplomatic belligerence and take it to next level or it is going to backfire on them.

Firstly, raising Baluchistan bogey is not going to deter Pakistan. In fact, Pakistan has been all through arguing that it is India and its intelligence agencies that are responsible for fomenting trouble in Baluchistan. So in a way by openly raising Baluchistan, India has made overt a policy that Pakistan feels it has been following covertly for a long period now. So in essence Pakistan stands vindicated and it gives Pakistan one more card, along with Kashmir, to be played at different levels. 

 Secondly, While Baluchistan was raised by India precisely to counter Pakistan on Kashmir, however, even though it has been more than a month now since the Baluchistan card was put out in the open by India, that has in no way stopped Pakistan from raising up the Kashmir issue or openly supporting Kashmiris. Rather, since Modi's speech on 15th August, Pakistan has gone on an over-drive in canvassing for the Kashmiri cause wherever possible, both internally and at international forums. It appointed 22 parliamentarians as 'special envoys' for garnering support for Kashmir cause world over. In his UNGA speech Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif unequivocally stated that peace between India and Pakistan could not be achieved unless Kashmir issue is resolved, and Pakistan will support Kashmir cause. 

It is precisely in this context that Ashok Swain, Professor of Peace and Conflict Research at Uppsala University, Sweden, argued, "Pakistan is very much aware of India's limitations. By playing the Baluchistan card, Modi is not going to deter Pakistan from meddling in Kashmir now or in the future. Baluchistan only provides Modi with a diversionary plank to hoodwink his supporters at home about his imaginary 56-inch chest" ( )

Thirdly, immediately after Baluchistan reference, the two major powers—China and US have categorically rejected this idea. At least India might have thought that US will lend some support to its assertion. However, that was not to be.  The U.S State Department Spokesperson John Kirby made it clear that U.S respects the unity and territorial integrity of Pakistan and does not support independence for Baluchistan. So if India was thinking that its growing ties with US was going to come to its help that it was proved wrong. Historically US's policy towards South Asia, especially India and Pakistan, has been guided by factors external to South Asia—Russia, China, Middle East etc.  Depending on its interests it has shifted its tilt towards one these two hostile nations while ensuring not to antagonize the other completely. Following this policy, while US may be tilting towards India, for reasons well known, it will never wish to have hostile relations with Pakistan for its strategic interests.  If history is any lesson, it will be politically incorrect for India to formulate any policy viz a viz Baluchistan or Pakistan in general on the consideration of their close ties with US. 

Fourthly, while US balances its position between India and Pakistan, China has strongly come against any meddling of India into Baluchistan. China has huge economic interests in Baluchistan and it has made absolutely clear that China will have to get involved if any Indian 'plot' disrupts the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in Baluchistan or any region within Pakistan territory. Hu Shisheng, the Director of the Institute of South and Southeast Asian and Oceanian Studies at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), one of China's most powerful think tanks affiliated with the Ministry of State Security, recently stated 'My personal view is that if India is adamant and if Indian factor is found by China or Pakistan in disrupting the process of CPEC, it will really become a disturbance to China-India relations, India-Pakistan relations…. If that happens China and Pakistan could have no other way but take united steps. I want to say that the Pakistan factor could surge again to become the most disturbing factor in China-India relations, even more than the Tibet, border and trade imbalance issues'. 

In fact, in a one to one meeting with Nawaz Sharif, on the sidelines of UN General Assembly meeting, the Chine's Primer reassured Pakistan that China stands with Pakistan in every situation and it strongly supports Pakistan's position on Kashmir. Given the geographical position of China along with its power and history of dispute with India, it will be absolutely difficult for India to keep Chinese position out of equation while taking any policy decision

Fifth, it needs to be mentioned that the original Baluchistan territory is split between Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. The Sistan and Baluchistan province is the largest provinces of Iran. Any disruption in Baluchistan on the Pakistan side will have a direct impact on parts in Iran and Afghanistan, which both countries are not going to like.   In that case also India's role will be tricky given that India shares reasonably amiable ties with both Afghanistan government and Iran at this point of time. India has invested billions of dollars in Afghanistan to get its influence in the country and Iran is an important route for bringing natural gas and oil resources into India. Any decision by India viz a viz Baluchistan will have to consider this possible collateral damage.

It is in the light of above, along with many other, issues that many well meaning analysts and scholars have argued that ranking up Baluchistan is only a tactic to divert world attention. Arguing that Modi seems not interested in bringing peace and order in Kashmir soon and instead there is a larger design to expand the scope of conflict with Pakistan, Professor Ashok Swain writes that 'each and every person with some rudimentary knowledge of Kashmiri politics knows that there is need for India to engage both Kashmiri separatists and Islamabad to bring back peace and order. However, the Modi government is doing all it can to sabotage that possibility…. Baluchistan is nothing but Modi's new jumla. There is no possibility of this promise delivering its intended deliverable…It will only create a lot of hope and aspiration for Modi's gullible supporters for some time, before fading into obscurity".

P.S: Initiating and supporting any insurgency or independence movement is a very tough choice for any state and sustaining that support is even tougher. India does not have a good record sustaining such support. It armed and trained LTTE only to dump them after some time and sided with Sri Lankan government. With Baluchistan any such move is going to be even more difficult, as India has not border connection with that part of the world.  

Author teaches at the Department of Political Science, University of Kashmir

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