Prime Minister Narendra Modi's remarks on Balochistan as well as Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), Gilgit and Baltistan from the ramparts of the Red Fort on August 15, potentially herald a marked departure from India's stance thus far.
They unmistakably signal to Pakistan that India could, henceforth, adopt a proactive policy to reclaim Gilgit, Baltistan and the portion of Kashmir occupied by Pakistan, while highlighting human rights and other violations by Pakistan in Balochistan.
The remarks suggest India will adopt a muscular policy in dealing with Pakistan and other countries when its sovereignty and territorial integrity are at stake. The newly enunciated policy is in keeping with the other strategic moves initiated by the prime minister from the day of his swearing-in. His remarks also dovetail with the policy implicit in the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016.
In the coming days, the prime minister's bold initiative will ensure focus, including in international fora, on Pakistan's human rights violations in Balochistan.
The spotlight on Balochistan will indirectly encourage the demands of the Balochi people, who occupy half of Pakistan's territory with the highest concentration of its natural mineral wealth. It will also cause unease in Beijing which has invested immensely in the Gwadar port, located in the Balochistan province.
|Prime Minister Modi's proactive policies towards Pakistan could well alter the regional dynamics.|
Modi's remarks also address China's claims on Ladakh, described by Beijing as "Little Tibet". China has, incidentally, hinted at the possibility of its becoming a party to the Kashmir issue.
The remarks question the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which goes through Balochistan and Gilgit and has a definite military component. China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) has deployed troops in these areas, with their number likely to increase in the coming months. Moreover, the headquarters of the South Xinjiang Military District of China's newly created West Zone (Theatre Command) and the Pakistan Army GHQ in Rawalpindi have established a direct secure communications link indicating heightened coordination in future military operations.
Pakistan's ties with China got elevated in April 2015 when Chinese president Xi Jinping visited Islamabad and announced the CPEC. The CPEC will effectively bind Pakistan to China as power generation, transport, commerce, R&D and the defence of Pakistan will all be increasingly tied to Chinese investments and interests.
Almost six months before Xi Jinping's visit to Islamabad, an influential, senior Chinese academic, who is occasionally called to brief the politburo of the Chinese Communist Party, said in a private conversation that "while we had earlier purchased the loyalty of the Pakistanis, we will now buy Pakistan."
After Xi Jinping's visit, senior Chinese communist cadres began urging India to ease tensions with Pakistan and resolve the Kashmir dispute. Yan Xuetong, director of the Institute for International Relations at Beijing's Tsinghua University and an influential Chinese strategic analyst close to Xi Jinping, told The New York Times on February 9, 2016 that "China has only one real ally, Pakistan".
Just weeks before Xi Jinping's arrival in Pakistan, former Pakistan ambassador Riaz Khokar hinted at the need for upgrading the existing intelligence cooperation. He wrote in China's state-run Global Times that the "two countries must identify hostile elements operating in Balochistan".
Since then, active intelligence cooperation between China and Pakistan has picked up, with China blocking India's requests at the UN sanctions committee for information on terrorists harboured by Pakistan.
Emboldened by this elevated relationship with China, Pakistan resurrected the Kashmir issue in international fora. Pakistan Army chief General Raheel Sharif's reiteration this January that "Kashmir is an unfinished agenda of Partition. Pakistan and Kashmir are inseparable", was made in the absolute confidence that he had China's unwavering support.
Pakistan's brazen efforts to fan trouble in the Kashmir Valley by pouring in finances and other kinds of support have undoubtedly contributed to Prime Minister Modi's remarks during his Independence Day speech.
Credible reports mention that in addition to sending jihadis of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Hizbul Mujahideen to Kashmir, Pakistan has begun to reorient the extremist Sunni organisation, Ahle Summat Wal Jamaat, to penetrate and operate in Barelvi strongholds in India and create a violent faction among the Barelvi Sunnis.
If sustained, Prime Minister Modi's proactive policies towards Pakistan could well alter the regional dynamics.