The arrest of a retired Indian Navy commander, Kulbhushan Jadhav, allegedly for spying and other activities in Balochistan is a coup of sorts for Islamabad. For years now Pakistan has claimed that India is involved in Baloch separatism, but has not been able to provide a shred of evidence. Now, if we are to believe Islamabad's version of events in the Jadhav case, they have it in good measure.
But in such cases the truth is usually not what it seems to be. It does seem rather far-fetched to believe that an Indian naval commander would personally be involved in a covert operation in what is certainly very dangerous territory. We need more details before we can accept the Pakistani charges at face value. Presumably, he will receive an open trial for his alleged transgressions and we will learn the truth, or maybe we will never really get to know it.
India has never once publicly espoused the cause of Balochistan. Perhaps, given Islamabad's covert and overt support to Kashmiri separatism and other acts of terrorism in India, New Delhi does indeed back the Baloch, but more likely through monetary support, rather than any military training or arms supplies. In contrast Pakistan has for decades trained, armed and funded Kashmiri separatists and provided shelter for a generation of Khalistani and other terrorists.
Many people in India are unaware of the contemporary history of Balochistan and the fact that the accession of its principal unit, the Khanate of Kalat is even more controversial than Jammu & Kashmir's accession to the Indian Union. If Kashmir has been in turmoil since 1990, separatism and insurgency has been a feature of Baloch history since they became part of Pakistan. Sparsely populated Balochistan comprises 44 per cent of the area of Pakistan, but just five per cent of its population.
Pakistani Balochistan comprises the Khanate of Kalat, its feudatories Kharan, Makran and Las Bela, and the British chief commissionership of Balochistan. In the run-up to Partition, the Congress and the Muslim League faced off on the status of the princely states in the country.
Pandit Nehru rejected the notion that with the withdrawal of British paramountcy, the princely states would become sovereign again. Whereas Jinnah, who knew that the bulk of princely states would fall into what would become India, supported the notion that they could either join India or Pakistan or "assume sovereign and independent status for themselves."
The Khan of Kalat, Mir Ahmed Yar Khan was an enthusiastic supporter of Pakistan and Jinnah was a legal adviser of the state. Kalat believed its relations with the British were akin to those of Nepal, Bhutan and Sikkim. Advised by Jinnah, the Khan of Kalat gave a memo to the Cabinet Mission in 1946 seeking independent status. At a meeting in Delhi on August 4, 1947, attended by the Khan, Jinnah and other officials, it was decided that the state would become independent.
Three days before Pakistan came into being, on August 11, 1947, a joint statement was signed by Pakistan states department recognising the independence of Kalat. Pakistan has subsequently claimed that this was simply a Standstill Agreement, but American scholar Wayne Wilcox who has examined the matter says it was not.
On August 15, a day after Pakistan became independent, Kalat declared its independence which was endorsed by its elected National Assembly, though the state said it was willing to enter into special relations with Pakistan on the matter of defence, foreign affairs and communications.
Baloch leaders, including the Khan sought Indian help to establish their claims, but they were rebuffed by Nehru. In March 1948, Pakistani troops were massed on its border and the Khan was forced to sign an Instrument of Accession with Pakistan and on April 1, 1948, the Pakistan Army marched into the state and arrested the Khan. His brother Prince Abdul Karim escaped and declared a revolt, the first of a series of five so far that Pakistan has had to confront to date.
As in the case of Kashmir, the British played a dubious hand in Balochistan. In 1946, the British felt they could live with an independent Balochistan, but by 1947 they believed this would be dangerous to their interests. The British high commissioner was asked by London "to do what he can to guide the Pakistan government" to ensure that Kalat would not emerge as an independent entity.
Pakistan has insistently charged India with helping the Baloch insurgency. No one has taken their charges seriously because their charges have been declarations, rather than the kind of proof India has adduced through the likes of David Coleman Headley or Ajmal Kasab. However, we do now have a new government in New Delhi, which may be less forbearing towards Pakistan than its predecessors.
Covert operations are not something they will talk about openly. But Pakistan needs to watch out, because if India decides to follow Pakistan's example in dealing with its neighbour, there could be big trouble ahead.
(Courtesy of Mail Today.)