Does Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi deserve lavish praise for taking potshots at Pakistan over Balochistan unrest, during his Independence Day speech, in a tit-for-tat response to Islamabad’s unflinching support for Kashmiris’ self-determination?
Modi’s die-hard apologists believe, initiating a radical shift in India’s official Kashmir policy, by equating the long-standing territorial dispute with an essentially domestic issue of disenchantment, would go a long way in not only elevating the country to a high pedestal in international diplomacy but also push Pakistan, the traditional bête noire, to the wall. Oblivious of the scores of casualties caused by Indian Air Force-dropped incendiary bombs in the northeastern city of Aizawl (1966), Modi supporters also argue that given Pakistan military’s use of brute force, including aerial bombing, on Balochistan’s civilian population, India should stand with the oppressed people (read armed to the teeth Baloch guerrilla fighters) in their hour of need.
Needless to say, India’s Hindu right-wing government aims to put New Delhi’s disastrous Sri Lanka policy of 1980s — of launching military intervention in the garb of containing civil fratricide — on repeat in Balochistan’s strategically located terrain, in order to checkmate China’s foray into the mineral-rich zone through the ambitious one-belt one-road (OBOR) project. After all, India’s deep involvement in Balochistan is directly linked to her investment in the Iranian port city of Chabahar, seen as a counter-anchor to Balochistan’s China-developed Gwadar deep seaport. In fact, New Delhi’s insatiable need for energy and mineral resources to support its fast-growing economy is the trigger for spending huge resources in the strategic Chabahar as well as nurturing rebel assets in the restive Sistan-Balochistan region. As a senior official, who handled sensitive politico-strategic assignments during the Vajpayee regime, once told this writer, apart from supplying sophisticated weaponry to Baloch guerrillas operating across Pakistani-Iranian territory, the rebels were also imparted training by Indian instructors at secretive locations.
“It serves to kill two birds with one stone” was the gentleman’s prompt response when asked why third parties were dragged into this destabilization game. New Delhi not only needed them as proxies to maintain its great hegemonic game in the Hindu Kush region but also wanted to keep such forces at arm’s length from Islamabad so as to corner Pakistan from all sides. Clearly, Modi’s sudden Balochistan rant is not merely an instinctive act to wriggle out of a tricky situation in Indian-administered Kashmir, arising out of disproportionate use of force.
Now that Japan has also shown a strong desire to jump into the regional great game, by partnering New Delhi in Chabahar’s composite infrastructure project, to counter Beijing’s attempt to economically stabilize the backward regions of Xinxiang, Tibet and Pakistan’s northwest, Modi’s government is eager to use this opportunity as a springboard to attract anti-China actors into the vortex of regional rivalry in south-central Asia for elevating India’s political and economic profile in the eyes of the world. And all this, says a top government source, is being done with the sole motive to get a rightful place in the global hegemonic architecture.
Inclusion of Tokyo into the India-Iran-Afghanistan arc, apart from ensuring financial stability for the huge Chabahar project, which New Delhi cannot provide alone, will serve as an effective counterweight to the China-Pakistan alliance. It will also consolidate the devious agenda of isolating Islamabad and usurping the economic fruits that fittingly belongs to Pakistan, being at the center of the natural transit route between India, Afghanistan and Central Asia.
It is indeed surprising that Japan, having consistently espoused the cause of peace and development, has become an unwitting party to a plot of depriving the Pakistani people, especially those residing in the restive northwestern region, of a prosperous future. As an Indian intelligence source explained to this writer, the Chabahar endeavor coupled with surreptitious stoking of civil unrest in Baluchistan in a calibrated manner will ultimately ensure that Pakistan suffers from lack of economic incentive due to want of energy and other resources. One wonder, how the Baloch separatist leaders will justify their involvement, even if unknowingly, in such a self-defeating cause when their own brethren desperately wants peace and economic prosperity? Undoubtedly, billions of dollars poured into infrastructure projects in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and Balochistan will help unleash the region’s economic potential and alleviate poverty, sustained by years of violence and resultant insecurity.
Surely, it is not possible for strategic assets to read their benefactors’ mind or else the Baloch separatists, at least the majority of them, would not have assisted India in her attempt to thwart Beijing’s effort of connecting the Pakistani market to Chinese manufacturing bases, including the emerging ones in Tibet and Xinjiang, which in fact is a win-win proposition for everybody in Pakistan’s impoverished north-west and western China.
It is indeed a pity that instead of harmonizing the positives of Gwadar and Chabahar projects to the benefit of the masses in the extended South Asian region, India is busy sabotaging the Chinese geo-economic initiative by exploiting Baluchistan’s traditional tribal rivalries, even at the risk of converting this resources-rich region into a second Libya. Besides, Modi needs to be reminded that reopening scars of accession will boomerang on New Delhi, as not everybody was happy about the prospect of merging with India in 1947. Therefore, instead of encouraging easily pliable regional politicians, from third countries, to badmouth Pakistan, New Delhi must alter the thrust of its policies to reap the fruits of Chinese investments in the region.