- Waqas ur Rehman
India has been making disturbances in Balochistan to achieve its strategic goals, and thus instigated the Baloch separatists to turn against the State of Pakistan. Previously, India had played an active role in the fall of Dhaka in 1971 by employing Mukti Bahini. It is no secret that Indian spy agency RAW has been supporting the separatists in Balochistan. Similarly, the Baloch nationalists have repeatedly admitted of receiving India’s support. Pakistan has been accusing India for using its consulates in Jalalabad and Kandahar to fund, train and arm the Baloch militants.
Pakistan had handed over a dossier to the United Nation’s Secretary General containing ‘evidences’ of Indian support to violence in Balochistan. Pakistan also has arrested a RAW operative Kulbhushan Jhadav from Balochistan, who admitted RAW’s involvement in sabotage, espionage and terrorist activities in Balochistan and Karachi. It is important to keep in mind that the Balochistan issue is not a straightforward one for India to directly engage in, as was the case with East Pakistan. India does not share a common border with Balochistan and is therefore dependent upon Afghanistan to provide more support to the Baloch separatists. This is not as easy as some hawks in India tend to believe, especially as India is struggling to get enough security-cover even to protect its own assets in a fast-deteriorating environment in Afghanistan.
India’s expanded engagement in Balochistan might also bring Iran close to Pakistan, because the Baloch nationalists have not only pitched themselves against Pakistan but also Iran. The Baloch people form a majority in Iran’s Sistan and Balochistan province. The Baloch separatists view their liberation in terms of ‘Greater Balochistan’, which includes all the areas having majority of the Baloch people.
When India went to war with Pakistan over Bangladesh in 1971, it had the blanket support of the former Soviet Union, one of the two superpowers in the Cold War era. Fortunately, Pakistan is now enjoying good bilateral relations with Russia. If India picks a fight over Balochistan, Pakistan will receive massive support from China whose $46 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) investment in the region is at stake, and it is unlikely that any global or regional power will come out openly on India’s side.
The Pakistani military has gained immense strength since the early 70s. In 1971, their most prized possessions were the tanks, but today it is their missile technology. After the episode of East Pakistan, Pakistan had not accepted Indian domination in the region; rather it decided to acquire nuclear weapons for its much-needed security. Unlike India, Pakistan has always been very clear about its purpose in acquiring nuclear weapons i.e. to defend itself against Indian aggression. Most importantly, Pakistan’s recent deployment of short-range nuclear weapon (Nasr) for its artillery arsenal has taken away any advantage India had previously in the case of a conventional war. This seriously limits India’s maneuverability to intervene militarily in Pakistani territory. Provoking Pakistan to an armed conflict now is like playing with fire. If India threatens the territorial integrity of Pakistan as it did in 1971, there is a real possibility that the Pakistani military will retaliate with its prized Nasr weapon.
The scenario of East Pakistan in 1971 was quite different from the current situation of Balochistan. East Pakistan was facing socio-politico-economic issues; however, Balochistan is enjoying many developmental projects by the Federal government. Balochistan has been given main share in the CPEC project. Similarly, the development of the Gwadar Port will prove to be a nerve center for the economic prosperity of the Baloch people. Similarly, the Baloch separatist movement is by no means, all popular. There are other ethnic communities living in Balochistan such as Pashtuns, Punjabis, Sindhis and Hazaras, who are against the separation of Balochistan.
Time has changed. India must realize that the current situation of Pakistan is quite different than it had during the 1971 crisis. The Pak Army has been enjoying full support and legitimacy among the Baloch people. Indian nefarious designs regarding Balochistan will not only create issues for itself, but the whole region. India should refrain from making disturbances in Balochistan, and cooperate with the regional countries especially Pakistan. It will be beneficial for the economic uplift of the region.