Pakistan Is Attempting To Weaken The Case For Baloch Self Determination By Getting The Iranians On Board The Cpec.
the Sistan and Baluchestan province has witnessed episodes of protracted insurgency. These fissures were first exploited during the Iran-Iraq war during the 1980s, when the Iraqi agencies began aiding the movements that were demanding Baloch autonomy from Iran.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, right, in meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Saadabad Palace, Tehran. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
In his Independence Day speech at the Red Fort, Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlighted Pakistan’s atrocities in Balochistan and expressed his solidarity with its people in their struggle for self-determination. This new policy shift – seen as a response to Pakistan’s proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir – alarmed the Pakistani establishment.
The initial signs of India’s policy shift appeared when AIR launched a website and a mobile application of a Balochi radio service on September 16. Although the radio service was launched way back in 1974 by AIR’s external services division, the website and application are aimed at reaching out to the Baloch diaspora settled in different parts of the world. The development of an email facility, which will help the audience send their feedback, is in progress.
Another development on these lines is the application for asylum by Switzerland-based leader of Baloch Republic Party Brahamdagh Bugti – grandson of the late Nawab Akbar Bugti and the leader of Baloch Republican Party. His application is being considering by the home minisrty.
Another exiled Baloch leader, Hyrbyair Marri, has also expressed his desire to seek asylum in India. Interestingly, a representative of Marri was in New Delhi last year to speak on the Pakistani army’s atrocities in Balochistan at an event where defence analysts Major General G.D. Bakshi and Colonel R.S.N. Singh were the chief guests.
This duel over Balochistan – which was hitherto confined to the two nations – reached the global audience when external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, in her address at the UN General Assembly on September 26, censured Pakistan. Swaraj termed its policies in Balochistan as the “worst form of state oppression”.
With tensions rising in Pakistan over India’s policy shift, there are signs that Pakistan is seriously rethinking over Balochistan, especially with regard to its relations with Iran, which also controls a part of the Baloch territory. There are indications that a rapprochement among the two nations is on the horizon.
The Baloch card in Iran-Pakistan ties
As it becoming more evident that New Delhi has begun engaging with the Baloch issue, some new trends are worth noticing on part of the Pakistani policy makers in the light of the geography of Balochistan that spans across Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. The territory of western Balochistan, which is controlled by Iran, was annexed in 1928.
At present, the Baloch in Iran, who are predominantly of the Sunni origin, form only about 2% of Iran’s total population. Relations between the state and its Baloch subjects have been bitter, and the Sistan and Baluchestan province has witnessed episodes of protracted insurgency. These fissures were first exploited during the Iran-Iraq war during the 1980s, when the Iraqi agencies began aiding the movements that were demanding Baloch autonomy from Iran.