The Independence Day statement of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in which he asked Pakistan to answer to the world about its human rights violation in Balochistan, demonstrated his unwillingness for a peaceful South Asian region.
It clearly shows the Indian reluctance to have a workable solution of the Kashmir issue through UN resolutions. The timing and contents of the statement can have dangerous consequences for the whole region. Some analysts termed it a new Indian policy that is likely to build pressure on Pakistan and to divert world’s attention from the atrocities the Modi’s government is committing in Kashmir.
In fact, this bizarre contention amply exposes his team’s internal failure to fulfil its promise of progress and development which he proudly made during his election campaign. While castigating Pakistan for its alleged role in Balochistan, Gilgit Baltistan, and Kashmir, Modi wants to get a number of internal and external strategic advantages out of this new policy.
It would give way to a new great game in the region because of the dynamics and strategic indicators of the statement itself. On the internal font, the political constituency of Modi is the extremist elements with the Hindutva agenda — an ideology seeking hegemony of Hindus and Hindu way of living. This approach has been proved by the growing wave of Hindu militancy in India on a number of occasions.
The potential targets of the BJB-backed Hindu extremists are Muslims, minorities, and the Dalits (the untouchable cast). Freedom of speech has largely been suppressed with regular registration of treason cases against human rights activists, international organisations and opposition leaders. Through his anti-Pakistan tune, Modi wants to internally keep his vote bank intact. Beyond all these analysis the new shift is quite significant for a number of reasons.
Firstly, there is an additional subtext to the Modi’s statement. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will pass through Balochistan and Gilgit Baltistan. Modi’s statement mentions the two regions along with Kashmir. The statement contains clear message as much for Beijing as for Islamabad. His reference to the three areas is significant which can be understood in proper context.
The CPEC project has brought Pakistan’s strategic significance to the forefront in the region. Pakistan views it as a new era in the regional stability, trade development and speedy transportation. Pakistan and China will be the major beneficiaries of the multi-billion dollar project which would be very hard for India to digest.
India under Modi is bent upon jeopardising the project. Besides, exploiting the weak points of Pakistan, Modi’s new policy shift intends to influence the multi billion dollar project between China and Pakistan. Its large-scale investment in Afghanistan, closeness with Iran and Bangladesh and supporting militants in Balochistan is aimed at isolating and encircling Pakistan.
Besides isolating Pakistan, Modi’s strategy aims at increasing the problems for both China and Pakistan with regard to the CPEC project. Pakistani leaders, both in the civil and military establishments, should take a principled stand and allay the grievances of peoples who feel deprived vis a vis the project. Pakistan and China need to understand the strategic shift in the Indian policy formulation vis-à-vis CPEC.
Secondly, it is a shift in India’s Kashmir policy in which it wants to declare the issue of occupied Kashmir as its internal matter. Pakistan demonstrates its moral, diplomatic, and legal support for the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination through the UN resolutions. It was India itself that took the issue of Kashmir to the UN for solution.
India wants to counteract Pakistan’s Kashmir strategy through a policy of engagement in Balochistan. It is now a fact that India’s top spy agency is funding separatist elements in the province. This assertion is further confirmed by the statement of Baloch separatist Brahamdagh Bugti in which he approved of having good relations with the Indian government.
However, soon after his statement, protesters in Balochistan came out in the streets and set ablaze the Indian flag, chanting slogans against the Indian prime minister. Balochistan Chief Minister, Sanaullah Zehri, said the Indian government supports insurgency in Pakistan. India is deeply involved in sponsoring elements like Brahamdagh Bugti, Harbiyar Marri, Zamran Marri and Allah Nazar.
He alleged that Brahamdagh Bugti is in contact with India wherefrom he is getting funds. There is no comparison between Kashmir and Balochistan. The Kashmiris are agitating for their right to self-determination in accordance with UN resolutions, whereas in Balochistan there is only a small group working on the behest of India.
Thirdly, the track record of Modi with regard to atrocities committed against Muslims is bleak. He has been called as the “Butcher of Gujarat” for his involvement in the Muslims’ massacre when riots erupted during his tenure as chief minister in 2002.
This time history has repeated itself in Kashmir. Lethal weapons were used against protestors as many of them lost their lives and eyesight. Modi feared international outrage over his government’s brutal suppression of the Kashmiri Muslim freedom fighters.
The OIC Secretary General, Iyad Madani, noted that the situation in held Kashmir was deteriorating and urged the international community to act. He expressed concern over gross human rights violations and unabated killings in the India-held Kashmir and renewed OIC call for resolution of the dispute through peaceful means.
Kashmiris want an end to the Indian occupation and favour independence or a merger with Pakistan, calling for a plebiscite on the region’s future. It is up to the Kashmiris to decide their future. Modi wanted to divert world attention from Kashmir to Balochistan and to absolve himself of the atrocities in Kashmir.
Modi’s statement should not be taken as mere rhetoric from the Indian side. How Pakistan would respond and react depends on the will of its leadership. Most importantly, Pakistan should consider its implications for the region’s strategic dynamics.
If CPEC is a game-changer in the region, India was searching for its own game-changer dynamic. An Indian analyst puts it that if it was merely a tactical manoeuvre, India could have left it to a mid-level diplomat, or an official foreign ministry statement or even a pronouncement by a cabinet minister. The fact that India’s Prime Minister has spoken of Balochistan — and that from the ramparts of the Red Fort — signifies a level of political sanction and commitment that has not been seen so far on the issue. A new game is about to commence in which probably India itself would be one of the losers.