Officials of the Home Ministry, External Affairs Ministry, PMO, Cabinet Secretariat, and National Security Agency have been holding quiet deliberations take stock of the Kashmir situation and evolve a comprehensive policy to deal with separatist Islamists and pro-Pakistan forces. The opposite site of the Kashmir issue, Balochistan, has also been part of the deliberations.
There is a consensus among policymakers that, since the Home Minister is heading a delegation of political leaders to the valley on September 4-6, the Kashmir issue should be discussed again at another meeting on the basis of the political feedback gathered.
Consequently, the Baloch issue has become the central theme of these meetings.
According to sources, representatives of a number of security and military agencies have made a strong pitch for strategizing action plans and formulating the announcements to be made on Balochistan. They have also argued strongly that the Baloch issue be raised at the upcoming U.N. General Assembly meeting this September since Pakistan has gone on a high-octane global propaganda on the Kashmir issue.
It’s learnt that the Ministry of External Affairs is already working on raising the Baloch question in a number of international fora.
“India has a strong human rights record, and we are naturally concerned about human rights violations in [Balochistan]. How this is expressed in our diplomacy, you will have to wait and see,” said MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup had last Friday.
According to media reports, Azizullah Bugti, leader of the Baloch Republican Party, said some time ago “We believe going to the U.N. is the next step for India…India must go beyond Mr. Modi’s words and give our voice its support on the diplomatic level at the world stage. We would like that the government of India considers letting us set up a ‘government in exile”.
Other Baloch leaders say they hope to travel to India for a show of strength at a “public rally” in the next few weeks. In Washington, the Indian ambassador Arun Singh and other officials already attended an event to mark the 10th anniversary of the killing of Baloch leader Nawab Bugti on Friday. “This year is different because of Prime Minister Modi’s declaration of freedom for Balochistan,” said Ahmar Mustikhan of the American Friends of Balochistan.
About 10 days ago, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj held a meeting with retired diplomats to discuss the PM’s remarks on Balochistan, as well as the likely impact on ties with Pakistan and China, given that Beijing’s infrastructure projects in Balochistan could be affected. While Swaraj made it clear that the step had been considered only after India’s many attempts to reach out to Pakistan had failed, all the ambassadors suggested continuity and endorsed the PM’s Baloch policy.
According to insiders, former diplomats also made two suggestions. First, a clear distinction be made between the country’s support to Baloch people on the issue of human rights violations by Pakistani forces; and secondly, the PoK issue should be handled separately since India has a legitimate claim over it. They also said that the policy of raising the Baloch issue could be effective only if it is sustained. Once we raise the expectations of Baloch groups, we mustn’t drop their cause if and when relations with Pakistan improve, former diplomats warned.