Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the nation during the 70th Independence Day function at the historic Red Fort in New Delhi, Aug. 15. (Shahbaz Khan | PTI)
In a first of sorts, standing from the ramparts of the historic Lal Qila (Red Fort) in New Delhi, Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi made a specific mention of Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan, writes Priyanka Bhardwaj. – @Siliconeer #Siliconeer #NAMO #narendramodi #India #indopakrelations
On the occasion of the 70th Independence Day, Modi said that the “people of Balochistan, Gilgit, (and) Pakistan Occupied Kashmir” who had wished him, was “an honor” for all Indians and recalled the atrocities on these peoples by Islamabad.
He hit out hard at Pakistan for supporting terrorism, saying, “Indians reacted with sorrow when terrorists slaughtered school children in Peshawar. That is the nature of India. But on the other hand, look at those who glorify terrorists. What kind of people glorify terrorists? What kind of people celebrate when people are killed?”
If these statements seek adherence to the essentials of the Indian Constitution while abiding by the view of the UN Council Resolution, it also reflects a remarkable strategic shift from the government’s erstwhile foreign policy and in line with the national sentiments.
Earlier at the All Party Meeting to discuss the Kashmir unrest that got sparked by the recent killing of Hizbul Commander Burhan Wani by security forces on June 8, Modi hauled up Pakistan for cross-border terrorism that led to turbulence in the Valley and also reiterated that all parts of Jammu and Kashmir including Jammu, Kashmir Valley, Ladakh and POK were part of India.
He also slammed Pakistan’s double-faced act when talking about ‘human rights’ in Kashmir when they bombed their own people using fighter planes in Balochistan.
Historically India’s passive defensive posture had allowed Pakistan to influence the world with its self-manufactured narrative of high moral authority, unleash three battles over the Valley and assert its writ, through overt and covert means, even over areas that remain with India.
If India attempts to reclaim its writ over Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, refusing to tolerate interference in matters intrinsic to its sovereignty, it may set the pace for fresh contouring of discourse and rebuff Pakistan’s efforts of whitewashing cross-border terrorism, most significantly, expose globally its gross human rights violations, brutalities and untold atrocities in Balochistan and PoK as well as stonewall China’s ambitions in South Asia.
For the uninitiated Gilgit-Baltistan region of J&K was forcefully occupied by Pakistan in November 1948, got further divided (in 1970) into two separate administrative divisions of Mirpur-Muzaffarabad called Azad Jammu and Kashmir and the Federally Administered Gilgit-Baltistan, earlier known as the “Northern Areas,” and then lost its Shaksgam Valley, around 5,180 sq km, when Pakistan illegally ceded it to Beijing in a border agreement of 1963.
Gilgit activist, Senge Hasnan Sering, President of Washington-based Institute for Gilgit Baltistan Studies, welcomed Modi’s highlighting of Pakistan crushing of local resistance, deliberate demographic changes being unleashed by it and Chinese heavy investments that definitely have a military component.
In Balochistan too Pakistan has a dismal record for its brutal violation of human rights, patronage to extremist Islamic groups and extra-judicial killings in a crackdown on groups seeking greater autonomy for the resource-rich province enabled by a near complete information black-out while keeping the population of a resource rich province in the worst poverty conditions.
The roots of the Balochistan conflict go back when Pakistan’s annexed the state on March 28, 1948 and forced Yar Khan, the Ruler of Kalat, to sign the Treaty of Ascension on the threat of his and his brothers’ imprisonment.
Coupled with siphoning of its resources and colonizing of their land the fiercely independent people, with their own social and cultural identity have led insurgencies from time to time.
Baloch leaders claim that to counter the largely secular independence struggle led by left-wing revolutionaries, the Pakistan army introduced Islamic right-wing jihadi death squads to carry out assassinations of the Baloch intelligentsia, the political leadership, journalists, lawyers and academics such as the August 8 suicide blast at Quetta that wiped out of an entire generation of lawyers who had had come together following a fatal attack on Balochistan Bar Association in Pakistan.
Europe-based separatist Mehran Marri put it this way on Twitter: “Is it a coincidence, days after U.S. blocks $300M to Pakistan there’s a major terror attack? Who r the Pakistanis fooling? China or the USA?”
In the absence of a fair share of the financial benefits to Balochs separatists have been resisting last year’s 51 Sino-Pak accords for establishment of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, railways and pipeline networks to link China’s restive west to Gwadar port, and investments for mining gold, copper and other minerals.
For breathing a new life in their long demand for self determination Modi’s encouraging remarks drew effusive thanks and praise from the likes of Marri, Brahamdagh Bugti, Hyrbiar Marri, Munir Mengal, Naela Quadri Baloch and Ahmar Mustikhan, and a host of others who heaped praise and thanks on Modi for giving voice to the Baloch cause.
These leaders, mostly in self-exile, have sought support from the U.S. and European countries against the oppressive Pakistani regime.
Founder of Baloch Republican Party, Bugti, a grandson of Nawab Akbar Bugti — a Baloch nationalist leader who was killed in an encounter with the Pakistani army, appealed in a video statement that, “The Indian government, Indian media and the whole Indian nation should not only raise their voices for the Baloch nation but also strive to help practically the Baloch independence movement and must be India’s long term foreign policy.”
He insisted that as Pakistan’s destructive role in Kashmir and its direct involvement in terrorist attacks in Mumbai and Pathankot have been clearly exposed India must intervene just as it had played a significant role in freeing Bangladesh.
Karima, Chairperson of Baloch Student Organization, on a Youtube post requested Modi to be a brother to Baloch women who have lost their brothers in atrocities inflicted by Pakistan Army.
“Hum apni jung khud lad lege, aap bas humari awaaz ban jae (We will fight our own war, you just be our voice),” she appealed to Modi, requesting him to engage the world in a dialogue about the genocide and human rights violations in Balochistan.
Widespread support has come to Modi even from neighboring countries of Afghanistan that has suffered from the terror perpetrated by the Taliban reared in Pakistan, and Bangladesh that struggled to gain freedom from Pakistan in 1971.
Of late USA too has been circumspect about Pakistan’s record of supporting terrorists, especially the Afghan Taliban who routinely kill American soldiers, and seeking sustenance from its elevated relationship with China, and if a U.S. official’s utterances are anything to go by, then it is highly probable that the U.S. Congress might halve military aid to Pakistan in the coming fiscal.
In the backdrop of warming up of Indo-U.S. business and military ties a distinct U.S. tilt toward India, Pakistan’s arch-foe, would be no surprise.
However, at present a conflict-ridden territory in the Indian subcontinent, Balochistan has become a reason for escalating tensions between India and Pakistan and it remains to be seen if Modi’s pitch remains at the level of deterrence or sparks off a global discourse, also by a deft handling of Iran and China, to secure a concrete future to the people of this region and eventually of South Asia.