Balochistan is nothing but Modi’s new jumla

The issue is only providing the PM with a diversionary plank. It is not going to deter Pakistan from meddling in Kashmir now or in the future.

 |  5-minute read |   15-09-2016
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On September 14, 2016, India for the first time raised the Balochistan issue before the United Nations.

India’s ambassador and permanent representative at the UN in Geneva, Ajit Kumar, in his intervention at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) accused Pakistan of perpetrating human rights violations in Balochistan and also blamed the country for the ongoing disturbance in Kashmir.

Exactly one month earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in an all-party meeting and then in his Independence Day speech, had made it clear that he was going to play the Balochistan card to deter Pakistan from inciting trouble in the Valley.

So, there is no surprise in India’s aggressive position against Pakistan at the UNHRC meeting. However, it is important to ask if India is going to gain anything from this diplomatic belligerence or not.

India’s Balochistan card has been already out in the open for a month now, but that has not stopped Pakistan from raking up the Kashmir issue. Rather, after Modi’s speech from the Red Fort, Pakistan has gone on an over-drive in canvassing for the Kashmiri cause wherever possible, both internally and at international forums.

India’s retaliation in Geneva will not deter the Pakistani establishment, it will rather embolden it further to go all out on Kashmir.

Pakistan has never tried to be an India and has never made a virtue of its record in respecting human rights or protection of minorities. It has been getting sermons on these issues for years now from the international community.

Any Indian criticism on human rights violations in Balochistan will in no way affect Pakistan; it will rather provide it an alibi to shift the blame on Indian interference for the separatist insurgencies of its own making.

Not only Pakistan, its most trusted friend and ally China also has a very bleak record in respecting human rights within its own territory and it abhors criticism by external actors on these matters.

India raising the Balochistan issue at international forums is not going to diminish China’s affection for Pakistan for sure. Rather, it will bring them closer vis-à-vis India. China will use its veto if there will be any attempt to censure Pakistan in any UN committee.

It is thus important to keep in mind that the Balochistan issue is not simple for India to openly engage with, as it was in the case of Bangladesh in 1970-1971.

Prodding of the Sangh Parivar’s new poster-boy and retired Army General GD Bakshi - “our generation split Pakistan into two, you should split it into four” - can get good applause from the nationalist crowd at home, but there are many limitations for India to successfully elevate its engagement in Balochistan, even at the diplomatic level.

Pakistan is very much aware of India’s limitations. By playing the Balochistan card, Modi is not going to deter Pakistan from meddling in Kashmir now or in the future. Balochistan only provides Modi with a diversionary plank to hoodwink his supporters at home about his imaginary 56-inch chest.

The Kashmir Valley has been under curfew for over two months now. Even prayer congregations on Eid have not been permitted. The death toll from the unrest has reached 84 already. Nearly 12,000 have been injured.

baloch-embed_091516042414.jpg Women protest the killings of political activists in Balochistan. (Photo credit: Reuters)

More armed forces have moved to the Valley to maintain the elusive law and order. Kashmir has never been so far from New Delhi in this century, as it is now.

When one's own house has caught fire and it's spreading, prudency lies in not throwing fireballs at the neighbour’s house, even if you blame his candle for your fire, but in doing your best to put out your own fire first.

However, it seems Modi is not interested in bringing peace and order in Kashmir soon. Instead, there is a larger design to expand the scope of conflict with Pakistan.

It is impossible to fathom that Modi is unaware of ground realities in Kashmir. 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.

Instead of trying to win them over, all sorts of tricks are being played to further enrage the separatist leaders.

Targeting them personally by threatening to take away some of their privileges not only garners them more popular support in the Valley, but also endangers critical communication links Indian agencies have been able to keep with them for decades.

And at the same time, by using the Balochistan ruse, India has provided all opportunity to the Pakistani establishment to play its anti-India card to the hilt.

The voices within Pakistan, which are in favour of improving relations with India, have gone into complete silence since Modi’s Independence Day speech. Hawks in Islamabad are having a field day.

It is not difficult to see that Modi is more interested in keeping the Kashmir issue alive and raging, rather than finding ways and means to bring back normalcy.

Fuelling separatism in Kashmir goes in tandem with state-sponsored cow vigilantism in the mainland in order to keep the Hindu-Muslim divide strong enough for possible political gains in the coming elections in politically crucial states. Raising the Balochistan issue at international forums is part of that larger gameplan.

Balochistan is nothing but Modi’s new jumla. There is no possibility of this promise delivering its intended deliverable, i.e. in restraining Pakistan from creating trouble in Kashmir.

It will only create a lot of hope and aspiration for Modi’s gullible supporters for some time, before fading into obscurity.

Also read: Modi has raised Balochistan's hopes. Now he must deliver

Also read: Balochistan in backyard, yet Pakistan will shed Kashmir tears at UN 


Ashok Swain Ashok Swain @ashoswai

The writer is professor of Peace and Conflict Research at Uppsala University, Sweden.

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