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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

India’s Baluch Connection

India’s Baluch ConnectionBy Zahoor • Sep 22nd, 2009 • Category: Politics • 3 Comments • Email This Post
The joint statement following the meeting between prime ministers of India and Pakistan, held on the sidelines of the NAM Summit at Sharm-el-Sheikh has quite emphatically shaken the stalemate into which the Composite Dialog Process had entered following the Mumbai carnage in Nov Last. The obtaining ambience had manifestly undergone a transformation for the better and in much contrast to the gruff unpleasantness that marked the earlier meeting between President Asif Zardari and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh just a month ago at Yekatarinburg. During that encounter Manmohan Singh, in utter disregard of diplomatic protocol and propriety, had bluntly lectured the Pakistani President concerning his limited brief restricted to informing him that Pakistan must not allow its territory to be used for terrorism against India. The image of a constrained prime minister pandering to the dictates of an overbearing anti Pakistan Indian establishment had, perhaps, never come across more emphatically.
In a pleasant contrast, the meeting at Sharm-el-Sheikh exhibited a welcome accommodation in the Indian posture towards normalizing the existing tension and to take forward the dialog process. The joint communiqué made a paradigm shift in India’s stance; it would de link the dialog process from the incidents of terrorism occurring in India, agreed that terrorism was the main threat to both the countries and affirmed both countries’ resolve to fight terrorism and to cooperate with each other to that end. Given the Indian fossilized obsession to brandish the terror card to stymieing any meaningful dialog, these are welcome developments but the piece de resistance , to most observers was the mention of Baluchistan in the communiqué;” Prime Minister Gilani mentioned that Pakistan has some information on threats in Baluchistan and other areas”.
Reference to Baluchistan in the Joint communiqué has raised quite a furor in India where experienced observers have begun calling it as Manmohan Singh’s Baluchistan Blunder, a faux pas or even relegating it to the lowliness of a drafting blunder by Shiv Shankar, the competent Indian foreign secretary by any standard. Understandably in Pakistan it is a welcome development where since long there has been increasing complaints concerning an Indian hand in raking trouble in Baluchistan through the Afghan conduit. The emergence of Baluchistan in Sharm-el-Sheikh’s Joint communiqué is definitely something deeper than what meets the eye. Few aspects in this context merit consideration.
First, there is an emerging realization that Indian intentions may be Ghandian for public and global consumption but in reality she is feverishly pumping money and weaponry of all kinds to troublemakers in Baluchistan; becoming patron saint of the Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA). Runaway Baluch dissidents, including Brahamdagh Bugti are based in Kabul and are well known acquaintances among the defence and intelligence circles in New Delhi. Her consulates in Iran and Afghanistan are actively involved in stirring insurgency in Baluchistan and the FATA areas. According to Christine Fair of RAND Corporation;” Having visited the Indian Mission in Zahedan, I can assure you they are not issuing visas as the main activity! Moreover India has run operations from its mission in Mazar (through which it supported the Northern Alliance) and is likely doing so from the other consulates it has reopened in Jalalabad and Qandahar along the border. Indian officials have told me privately that they are pumping money into Baluchistan.”
Second, the Indian shenanigans to stir trouble in Pakistan (Baluchistan and Baitullah Mehsud’ TTP)have crossed limits to the extent where they are now bleeding US and NATO military assets in Afghanistan and adding to the homeward flight of the body bags with a much increased frequency. According to the Foreign Policy magazine quoting a former intelligence official who has served in both countries; “The Indians are up to their neck in supporting the Taleban against Pakistani Government in Afghanistan and Pakistan…The same anti Pakistani Forces in Afghanistan, also shooting at American soldiers, are getting support from India”. All this happening under the gaze of the US and NATO presence, and apparently with their tacit knowledge, the fact is well registered with all who matter in the defense / intelligence establishments of US and Europe who are beginning to taste the bitter and bloody taste of the Indian poison meant for Pakistan. The resultant “collateral damage” to US/NATO servicemen is getting beyond acceptable limits and there is a diminishing acceptance of the manner in which the Indian Operation in Baluchistan and FATA/NWFP seems to be causing unintended consequences. Through mention in the Joint Communiqué Indians may be acknowledging their failure in botching an operation that has begun to bleed the acquiescing spectators for whom the unintended pain has crossed the threshold of forbearance. Indian interference in Baluchistan and FATA is an established phenomenon by now; known to all and sundry. Why not accept the ground reality that is no longer a secret and use it [“some information on threats in Baluchistan and other areas”] as a bargaining chip in parleys with Pakistan, the Indians seem to be postulating.
Third, by conceding to allow the emergence of Baluchistan in the text of a formal diplomatic document, Indian may be putting the proverbial foot in the door to start an uncalled for interference in the Baluch affairs. India is already deeply involved in organizing a sizeable and well orchestrated vitriolic campaign to drum up support for the terrorist and anti state activities of a clutch of Baluch terrorists; using Harbiyar Marri as a figurehead. With placing of Baluchistan in a bilateral context we can expect strengthening of the propaganda from India seeking to internationalize the cause of the vested interests in Baluchistan. It is instructive to note that during 2006 Indian government did make uncalled for comments while the security forces were involved in internal security operations in the province.
Ever since the blueprints for Gwadar development went to the drawing boards the strategically located Province has seen the evolution of a maelstrom of conflicting foreign interests, seeking a foothold to promote their respective interests. Needless to say, with Indian protégées ruling the roost in post Taleban Afghanistan, it has acquired a commanding presence and an attendant potential to brew trouble in Pakistan. By putting Baluchistan in the bilateral context, the Indians may be tacitly acknowledging their well exposed interference in the Province. But on the other hand they may be contriving to shift focus from the human rights abuses in Kashmir by drum beating about the handling of the security situation in Baluchistan where India is relentlessly maneuvering to set alight the fires of instability and violence.
By Momin Iftikhar

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