Gloves are off: India raises Balochistan to pin down Pakistan
In 2015 at a university lecture, National Security Advisor and former Intelligence Bureau chief Ajit Doval while talking about the challenges India faces from Pakistan explained the “three different modes of engaging an enemy” to a group of students who listened to him with rapt attention.
“Defensive, Defensive-offense and offensive” he said before further explaining how they work and how all these methods can be applied to counter and expose Pakistan’s vulnerabilities and even end up losing Balochistan. Although, he didn’t divulge any more details but he did say India has been mostly in a defensive mode. But that’s not the case anymore.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s mention of current state of affairs in Balochistan and Pak held Kashmir while addressing the nation in his 70th Independence speech marked a tectonic shift in India’s approach towards handling Pakistan.
“The people of Balochistan, the people of Gilgit, the people of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir have thanked me in such a manner, from places that I have never been and never had a chance to meet, they have sent wishes to the people of India and thanked us,” the Indian prime minister said. “I am grateful to them.”
Up till this point, Balochistan had been a bad word in the Indian polity, almost blasphemous. This was the first time an Indian PM had extended any support to people of Balochistan. On the other hand Pakistan has time and again used Kashmir to push India into a corner at the international stage.
This swift change in approach was enough to spark a heart burn in Pakistan as well as China. Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest province, shares borders with Afghanistan and Iran and is rich in mineral and fuel resources. It also hosts the deep-water port of Gwadar, which is a key feature of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) plan and a critical component of China’s massive One Belt, One Road project.
While Modi only raised the question of human rights violations in Balochistan and didn’t imply any overt help to Baloch movement but it was enough to signal to Pakistan that India had moved from defensive mode to defensive-offence.
Some observers view the references to Balochistan, PoK and GB as indication of a significant aggressive change in India’s Pakistan policy provoked by the recent Pakistani interference in the developments in the Kashmir valley.
By bringing up Balochistan in response to Pakistan’s activism on the turmoil in, India has somewhat managed to push the Pakistani government on a back-foot. Concerns have been raised in some quarters that Prime Minister’s Balochistan outreach (as also sharp focus on Gilgit-Baltistan) with emphasis on Pakistan’s human rights record in these territories might backfire.
Even though Pakistan has used Modi’s remarks to prove its long term claims of India’s influence in stirring trouble in Balochistan but that hasn’t stopped Modi from going on in an offensive thus paving way for a cold war between the two nuclear armed South Asian countries.