Tuesday December 12, 2017
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India needs to assert as China makes inroads into Indian Ocean Region

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By- Surbhi Moudgil

Reaching new heights, China invested $46 billion for an ambitious 3,000-km-long China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which would shorten the route for Chinese energy imports from the Middle East by 12,000 km. This is the biggest overseas investment announced by China yet.

The project would link China’s far-western region to Pakistan’s Gwadar port (built with Chinese investment and technical expertise) and would provide 14,000 MW electricity towards easing out the Pakistan energy famine.

The corridor will pass through India’s Gilgit Balistan (a disputed territory claimed by Pakistan). This part of the Indian territory, claimed by India after a long dispute, is a part of Jammu & Kashmir. This corridor can hamper the current geo-demographic segmentation of India, directly threatening the geographical significance of India in the subcontinent.

This would further affect India’s stature in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) as China would have the access to Pakistani port of Gwadar. At present India is the largest and most influential nation in the IOR because of its huge coastline as well as navy might with regards to its smaller neighbours like Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

In December 2014, the Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua published a government statement announcing the closure of the strategic Khunjerab Pass and, in the process, referred to Gilgit Baltistan as part of Pakistan. Until then, China had maintained that J&K was a bilateral problem/dispute between India and Pakistan. It is clear that terming Gilgit Baltistan as part of Pakistan reflected a shift in the Chinese position on the J&K— a change from its previously held neutral position.

Recently, a multibillion dollar deal was sealed between the two neighbours, to provide eight submarines to Pakistan. Four of the submarines will be built in China, while the other four are to be constructed in Pakistan as part of a technology transfer agreement.

The announcement of these two deals in a small time-frame raises a question on China’s vested interests. Can it be seen just as an economic deal or has it something to do with increasing Chinese presence in a region where, traditionally, India has enjoyed a strong hold.

Whatever be the Chinese intentions, but this CPEC project would expand China’s strategic foothold in the Indian Ocean Region and change, even if small, the equation in the regional power structure.

China would then gain geo-political influence in the IOR even though it is, geographically, nowhere near the Indian Ocean. It would accelerate China’s string-of-pearls strategy of surrounding India from all the sides.

Clearly, India needs to take a stand on this matter as it can cause grave danger to its security strategy. In a situation where India is already tardy on its response on this situation, significant steps are needed to be taken in this regard.

In June this year, India showed its changed approach to tackling terror when it asserted its stature in the region by allowing Indian army to conduct a raid in Myanmar as it pursued the militants. This raid, and change in Indian policy, was a cause of worry for Islamabad as it thought that India might pursue the same moves against them.

India, while announcing its “Cold Start” strategy, as executed Myanmar, has made it clear that it would pursue similar threats/activities with an iron feast and wouldn’t hesitate to target those terrorists even if they are based in Pakistan. India also asserted that it would deploy tactical nuclear weapons in the event of Pakistan’s use of short-range nukes.

It is good to see India displaying its authority in the region with tackling the issues head on, rather than playing the wait and watch game. India has had a long history of being passive towards security threats, inside and outside the borders. Rise of naxals and northeast militancy are examples of such passiveness which is eating India’s vision of developing the region.

India can’t afford to fight this ‘war’ on two fronts. As a rising global power, and the big brother in South Asia, India can’t allow China or Pakistan to intimidate it. So, India would have to keep a balanced approach towards power politics in the region while saving its own pride and national interests. This shows our nation as a political and military power and asserts its ethical egoism (self-interest).

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Gwadar Port: China Turning Pakistan Port Into Regional Giant

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A Pakistani soldier stands guard while a loaded Chinese ship
A Pakistani soldier stands guard while a loaded Chinese ship prepares to depart Gwadar port, about 700 kilometers (435 miles) west of Karachi. Pakistan. VOA

An unprecedented Chinese financial and construction effort is rapidly developing Pakistan’s strategically located Arabian Sea Gwadar port into one of the world’s largest transit and transshipment cargo facilities.

The deepwater port lies at the convergence of three of the most commercially important regions of the world, the oil-rich Middle East, Central Asia, and South Asia.

Beijing is developing Gwadar as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, known as CPEC. The two countries launched the 15-year joint mega project in 2015 when President Xi Jinping visited Islamabad.

Under the cooperation deal construction or improvement of highways, railways, pipelines, power plants, communications and industrial zones are underway in Pakistan with an initially estimated Chinese investment of $46 billion.

The aim is to link Gwadar port to landlocked western China, including its Muslim-majority Xinjiang region, giving it access to a shorter and secure route through Pakistan to global trade. The port will also provide the shortest route to landlocked Central Asian countries, including Afghanistan, through transit trade and offer transshipment facilities.

Chinese fuel imports and trading cargo will be loaded on trucks and ferried to and from Xinjiang through the Karakoram Highway, snaking past snow-capped peaks in northern Pakistan.

A general view of the port
A general view of the port before the inauguration of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor port in Gwadar, Pakistan. VOA

‘Qualitative change’

Gwadar will be able to handle about one million tons of cargo annually by the end of the year. Officials anticipate that with expansion plans underway, the port will become South Asia’s biggest shipping center within five years, with a yearly capacity of handling 13-million tons of cargo. And by 2030, they say, it will be capable of handling up to 400-million tons of cargo annually.

China has in recent months begun calling CPEC the flagship project of its global Belt and Road Initiative, or BRI. The “qualitative change” from an experimental project to flagship project underscores the importance Beijing attaches to CPEC, said Zhao Lijian, the deputy chief of mission at the Chinese embassy in Islamabad.

Out of 39 “early harvest” projects under CPEC, 19 have since been completed or are under construction with a Chinese investment of about $18.5 billion, Lijian told VOA. The progress makes it the fastest developing of all of at least six BRI’s corridors China plans to establish, added the Chinese diplomat.(VOA)

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69 Years a Slave? Balochistan’s Struggle for Freedom : A Detailed Report

Baloch nationalists assert that theirs is a freedom struggle; they were occupied by Pakistan in 1948 and have been fighting since to free themselves.

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Balochistan
Baloch people address their protests as a freedom struggle to liberate and unify their people and land from control of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. Wikimedia
  • Even after 70 years of Pakistan’s creation, Balochistan refuses to associate itself as a part of the country
  • Pakistan’s military occupation of Balochistan began in 1948 before which the province had existed as an independent state
  • The insurgency in Balochistan traces its roots in ethnic nationalism along with feelings of political and economic exclusion

Balochistan, August 31, 2017 : Located in the South West of Pakistan, the Balochistan province of Pakistan constitutes nearly 45 per cent of the country’s territory. However, even after 70 years of Pakistan’s creation, the people of the province refuse to associate themselves with Pakistan or its framework of a nation state. They believe they have been Balochis for over three thousand years, who have now been invaded.

“It is freedom struggle,” believes activist Naela Quadri Baloch like many other Baloch nationalists. According to her, Balochistan had been occupied by Pakistan in 1948 and “ever since we have been fighting against Pakistan to free ourselves”, she believes.

In 2016 during an interview with The Times of India, the women’s leader and activist Naela Quadri Baloch had asserted that Pakistan is not interested in Kashmiris but specifically in the territory of Jammu and Kashmir for its desire to control the Indus river system. Similarly, it is also not interested in the Balochis, but the land of the state for its strategic location and mineral reserves.

Baloch nationalists assert that Pakistan’s economy is dependent on loans from the IMF, World Bank and the Western countries that are allegedly taken on the pretext of Balochistan’s rich mineral resources. They further claim that Pakistan’s strategic importance is also due to Balochistan coast. Pakistan would not be able to survive, which is why it does not want Balochistan to emerge as an independent state.

Balochistan
Balochistan comprises of about 45 per cent of Pakistan’s territory. Wikimedia

While the world views it as an insurgency movement, Balochis address their protests as a freedom struggle to liberate and unify their people and land from control of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan.

They maintain that Balochistan was never a part of India or Pakistan and it had always been an independent country.

Balochistan At The Time Of Partition

Balochistan comprises of four erstwhile princely states – Kalat, Kharan, Lasbela and Makran, that had been unified by Naseer Khan, the Khan of Kalat.

During the British rule, the province was divided into British Balochistan (25 per cent) and Native Balochistan, occupying 75 per cent of the total territory with people pledging adherence to Naseer Khan.

Immediately following partition and the creation of Pakistan, Khan’s descendant, Mir Ahmed Yaar Khan was faced with three options – independence, or accession to either India or Pakistan. He decided upon independence, following which a communiqué was released on August 11, 1947 giving independent sovereign status to Kalat.

However, by October 1947, Mohammad Ali Jinnah mooted Kalat to formally join the state of Pakistan. The Khan of Kalat did not agree to the accession which was followed by a standstill between the two leaders upon the status of present-day Balochistan.

Becoming A Part Of Pakistan

By April 1948, the Pakistan army moved into the province and captured Kalat. The Khans’ attempts of an armed campaign against the Pakistan army went futile and the province was merged with Pakistan by June 1948.

At the center of Balochistan’s forced accession was Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who had previously been hired by the Khans for his legal services to negotiate Kalat’s independent status with the Britishers.

Before partition, Jinnah had successfully mooted an ‘Independent Status’ of Kalat for which he was graciously awarded with gold. But, Balochistan breathed as a free country only from August 1947 to March 1948, after which Jinnah breached trust and betrayed the Khan, forcing the Pakistani invasion and eventual accession of Kalat.

ALSO READ Violence surges yet again in Balochistan

Surprisingly, during the struggle and annexation of present-day Balochistan, the Indian Congressmen, Mahatma Gandhi or the then-Governor General Lord Mountbatten made no attempts to hinder in the remonstration. This indifference can be attributed to the Indian leaders’ failure to realize the strategic implication of a sovereign Balochistan at the time.

A Growing Ethnic Nationalism

Following the formation of Pakistan, distorted power relations existed among different Muslim ethnicities. Additionally, unchallenged power was exercised by Punjabis who comprised of about 56 per cent population of the state.

In 1954, the One Unit scheme was launched by the federal government of Pakistan to merge the four existing provinces of West Pakistan (Khyber-Pakhtunkawa, Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab) to form a homogeneous, united political entity in an attempt to,

  • Forge national unity on basis of Islam and geography
  • Reduce gross expenditure
  • Help eliminate ethnic prejudices.

The move triggered violence throughout the country and especially in Balochistan, wherein this was interpreted as a strategy to establish Punjabi domination.

Balochistan rose against the move, which came to an end in 1970 with the overthrow of the One Unit scheme.

However, following the rebellion, a strong sense of nationalism, propounding larger political autonomy and a separate state for Balochistan broke a full-fledged insurgency from 1973 to 1977; over 80,000 personnel were deployed to quell the rebellion.    

Armed struggle to achieve separation from Pakistan lasted throughout the 1970s, in which 3,300 army personnel and 5,300 Balochis were killed. However, the Pakistani government successfully compressed the movement.

Economic Alienation

Baloch nationalists have repeatedly argued that they are yet to receive any benefit from the development projects that have been initiated by the government in Balochistan.

  1. Reportedly, the Sui Gas Field in Balochistan caters to most urban households in the country. Despite producing about 45 per cent of gas for Pakistan, the province gets to consume a mere 17 per cent. Additionally, the Balochis get a nominal amount of Pakistani Rupees 6 for a 24-hour supply.
  2. The Pakistani government, in collaboration with China, initiated the development of the Gwadar port in the province, with an aim to better trade ties with Asia, Europe, and US. However, a large number of Punjabis and non-Baloch people were hired for the project, leaving an increasing population of Baloch engineers and technicians unemployed.
  3. Balochistan has one of the world’s richest reserves of copper and gold. However, as much as 16 kgs of gold is seized everyday by the Chinese under an arrangement with the government, which robs the Balochis of major economic benefits.
  4. Despite being one of the country’s key providing areas,
    • 80 per cent population of Balochistan continue to live in the absence of safe drinking water
    • 80 per cent people do not have access to electricity
    • 70 per cent children have never been to school
    • 63 per cent of Balochis live below the poverty line

While ethnic nationalist interests continue to worry Balochistan, a primary demand has also been about better control over the economic resources of the region.

However, the Pakistani government blames the nationalist struggle in the region for impeding the developmental process.

Political Subjugation By Islamabad

Balochistan makes up nearly 45 per cent of Pakistan’s territory but the Balochs comprise only 5 per cent of the total population, making them a minority in Pakistan.

Their representation in the National Assembly of Pakistan is also negligible (17 out of 342) which reveals that the Balochis have lost their say in policy formulations and are forced to adhere to laws that have been put in place for them by power honchos sitting in Islamabad.

Additionally, the Pakistan government centered in Islamabad has eradicated most of the Baloch activists and nationalists, calling them ‘foreign agents against the state’. This can be supplemented with the murder of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti who was an ex chief minister of Balochistan.

ALSO READ Akbar Bugti: Remembering the Balochistan Hero on his 11th Martyrdom Anniversary

Pakistan And Its inherent Demand of Balochistan

Ever since the creation of Pakistan, it has been evident that the Pakistan government is more concerned with occupying the physical territory of Balochistan, with meager interest in its indigenous population.

The Pakistan army, on command of the government has employed every possible armory against its own people of Balochistan, in an attempt to contain the province within its seizure. Furthermore, army cantonments have been established at Dera, Gwadar, Bugti and Kohlu to gauge activity and movement of the Baloch people.

Additionally, despite occupying 45 per cent of Pakistan’s territory, the budget allocated to Balochistan is minuscule in comparison to its vast landmass.

In 2002, General Pervez Musharraf had striked a deal with China over the Gwadar port development as part of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Baloch people condemned the allocation of land to the rich businessmen of Punjab and Karachi and further lamented the unemployment stemming from the project. The move also instigated further violence in the region.

Balochistan
Gwadar port in Balochistan. Wikimedia

As of now, according to report, all 22 districts of Balochistan continue to suffer at the hands of the enduring insurgency with the tally of displaced people now crossing over 2 lacs.

In more recent times, the Pakistan army took aid of suicide bombers to tackle the ongoing insurgency. On August 8, 2017, as many as 54 lawyers became victims of a suicide attack, which is being touted as a State-funded action as the group included several Baloch activists who had been vocal about Pakistan army’s interference in state affairs.

ALSO READ Balochistan Suicide Bombing: Provincial Government Falsely blames India for the Attack

According to a report published in Dawn,prince of the now redundant Kalat state, Prince Mohyuddin Baloch who is now the  Baloch Rabita Ittefaq Tehreek chief,  had said that Balochis are not looking to wage wars. Until now, Balochis have not once attacked Pakistan, but only defended themselves.

He said the objective of their protests has been to draw the government’s attention. However, regretfully, no one is paying any heed to their cries.

Dr. Aasim Sajjad Akhtar had rightly quoted in an article in the Economic and Political Weekly that the “ethnic difference remains the single biggest fault line in Pakistani politics.”

The Balochistan insurgency thus, traces its roots in a ripe ethnic nationalism along with feelings of political and economic exclusion. This animosity among the country will continue unless Pakistan accepts its non-Muslim history.


 

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World Baloch Organisation Activist Azghar Baloch brings Human Rights Violations to the notice of International Community

Forced Kidnappings, abductions, murders, and suppression of any opposition has become common in the lives of Baloch people

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Human Rights Violations, Azghar Baloch
World Baloch Organisation Activist Azghar Baloch brings Human Rights Violations to the notice of International Community, Wikimedia
  • Azghar Baloch is an activist for the World Baloch Organization
  • The activist called for international community to stand with Balochistan due to the numerous human rights violations
  • Balochistan has been heavily impacted by insurgents and Islamist extremism, causing the residents to live under constant threat to life

Balochistan, August 16, 2017: The activist for World Baloch Organization, Azghar Baloch, urged the international community to stand with Balochistan and its people in these times of atrocities.

The World Baloch Forum was set up in collaboration with Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO)

Balochistan, a province of Pakistan, has been bearing the brunt of the present of terror organizations and Islamist extremists. Forced Kidnappings, abductions, murders, and suppression of any opposition has become common in the lives of Baloch people.

Additional to the issue of insiders is the issue of orders. The multi-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) initiative between the two countries neighboring India comes at the cost of the Balochistan region. CPEC is China’s interest to which the Pakistani government has remained blind.

ALSO READ: Balochistan Suicide Bombing: Provincial Government Falsely blames India for the Attack

Azghar Baloch, the activist, urged the support of the international community. He called for the investigation of human rights violations and to bring peace and stability to the region.

This year earlier, exiled Baloch leaders and activists organized an event called “China’s One Belt One Road Initiative – Its Adverse Impact on Balochistan and the Region” in Berlin, Germany.

Efforts have been made to bring the issues to the attention of the international community. As Azghar Baloch puts it rightly, it is a “humanitarian crisis so rarely heard of.”

The suppression and threat to life of Balochistan people comes from its own nation Pakistan.

The activist, speaking from outside the White House, concluded by urging that the powerful leaders step up so that fundamental human rights of the Baloch people must be respected in all walks of life.

– prepared by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2394


NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt.