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Pakistan’s handling of Balochistan is reminiscent of its step brotherly treatment to East Pakistan

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Speaker in Ramadan

By Harshmeet Singh

In most cases, talks about Pakistan remain confined to the Kashmir conflict and home-grown terrorism. While Pakistan has somehow managed to restrict International media’s coverage of its human rights violations in Balochistan, it has never missed a chance of blaming India for the ongoing insurgency in one of its most impoverished provinces. Pakistan’s handling of Balochistan is reminiscent of its step brotherly treatment to East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). Balochistan’s long held demands for increased autonomy have fallen to deaf ears over the past half century. If Pakistan’s handling of the matter is any indication, the decades-long conflict doesn’t seem to have any concrete solution in sight.

Tracing the roots

The Balochistan conflict dates back to 1948 when the Pakistan Army launched an operation to neutralize the rebels in Kalat, after they refused to accept the King of Kalat’s decision to join Pakistan. According to them, the King was made to sign the instrument of accession by the Pakistan army at a gunpoint. Kalat lies at the centre of present day Balochistan.

With a new constitution coming into force in 1960s, the province was given limited provincial autonomy which further escalated the separatist movement in the province. In 1973, the unrest led to a joint military operation by the Pakistani and Iranian forces in the province which diluted the insurgency considerably. But with the emergence of Taliban in the early 2000s in the neighbouring Afghanistan, conflict resurfaced in the area and law and order took a backseat.

Despite having one of the biggest reserves of natural resources in the country, Balochistan remains one of the poorest areas in Pakistan. The province doesn’t get any royalty for the resource extracted from its land. While the central government blames the separatists for creating an unfavourable environment for development, the separatists accuse the central leadership for neglecting the province due to political interests. In the past decade or so, the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) has launched many violent operations against the Pakistan army, resulting in many deaths. Headed by Hyrbyair Marri, the BLA has been named as a terrorist organization by the Pakistan government, the USA and the EU.

The Baloch population was divided among Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran due to the illogical Durand Line drawn by the British that divided Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Balochis now want to unify the area lying in all these countries, an idea which isn’t acceptable to any of these nations.

India’s connection

The ISI has been constantly accusing India of providing financial aid to the BLA, with an aim to divide Pakistan. Parvez Musharraf was once quoted saying that Pakistan possessed concrete proof that Afghanistan and India have been “involved in efforts to provide weapons, training and funding for Baloch extremists through Brahumdagh Bugti and Balach Marri, two Baloch nationalists, who were living in Kabul”. Pakistan has also accused India of offering its consulate offices in Afghanistan and Iran as the meeting place for Baloch separatists.

Balochistan has never shied away from seeing India as a friend. In 2008, the founder of Balochistan Republican Party, Brahumdagh Bugti, said that he is ready to accept help from India. Pakistan isn’t alone in thinking that India has an indirect involvement in Balochistan. Military officials in the US and the UK have hinted multiple times that they are certain about India’s active role in the conflict-ridden province. India, on the other hand, dismisses all such claims and calls them baseless and frivolous.

Many experts compare the Balochistan conflict with Kashmir issue and hint towards India using the Baloch province to gain some ground in Kashmir. Though these comparisons are personal imaginations of a few experts, the two regions stand poles apart. Unlike India’s dismissal of all allegations about its role in Balochistan, Pakistan has been open in its support to the Kashmiri militants and separatists. India has never given shelter to any Baloch leader seeking exile, as opposed to Pakistan’s royal treatment to India’s wanted criminals. Despite India’s neutral stance, Baloch people are known to be highly respectful towards India.

President at the Baloch Society of North America, Dr. Wahid Baloch, tried to reach out to India in 2009, saying, “We love our Indian friends and we want them to help us and rescue us from tyranny and oppression. In fact, India is the only country which has shown concern over the Baloch plights, but showing concern is not enough. We want India to take Balochistan’s issue to every international forum, the same way Pakistan has done to raise the so-called Kashmiri issue. We want India to openly support our just cause and provide us with all moral, financial, military and diplomatic support (sic).”

Gwadar Port

Soon after Pakistan gave its Gwadar port to China for ‘development purposes’ in 2003, a terrorist attack was carried out in the area, which killed 3 Chinese engineers. Without giving much thought, Pakistan blamed India for this attack. Lying in the Baloch area, the port was a major hope of development for the local Balochis. But neglecting their demands for royalty on production of natural gas, Musharraf ordered the Pakistan army to carry out a military operation in the province, to suppress any rebellion.

The first export ship left Gwadar Port earlier this month, thus marking the successful completion of the project. India is keeping a close eye on the developments at the Gwadar port due to many reasons. An increasing Sino-Pak bonhomie isn’t a great sign for India.

The Baloch nationalists, who have taken the path of armed violence, seem convinced of this method’s effectiveness in getting them closer to their demands. They would do well to re-think their approach since their ‘war of independence’ is just adding to their misery and bloodshed. India, on the other hand, must make a choice between getting engaged in Balochistan or forming a partnership with Pakistan on Gwadar Port to get easier access to the planned gas pipelines through the port.

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India China’s Fight Over the Doklam Plateau Explained

Doklam or Donglang, is a disputed area between China and Bhutan located near their tri-junction with India

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picture from- indiaopines.com

By Ruchika Verma

  • India and China have an old history of disputes
  • This time, the dispute is regarding the Dokplam Plateau
  • The area is of strategic importance for both the nations

Disputes between India and China are not at all uncommon. The rivalry between the two nations is famous. There have been several disputes between the two on the India-China border in past, and there seems to be no stopping for these disputes in the present or future, for that matter.

India and China have a n old history of repeated disputes. zeenews.india.com
India and China have an old history of repeated disputes. zeenews.india.com

In June 2017, the world witnessed yet another dispute arising between India and China. This time the dispute was about China building a road extending to Doklam Plateau, which both nations have been fighting over for years now.

Also Read: China is likely to get involved if India disrupts $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

History of the dispute 

Doklam or Donglang (in Chinese), is a disputed area between China and Bhutan located near their tri-junction with India. India doesn’t directly claim the area but supports Bhutan’s claims on it.

India fits into the picture, as this plateau is an important area for India. Not only is Bhutan one of the biggest allies of India; China gaining access over the Doklam Plateau will also endanger India’s borders, making them vulnerable to attacks.

Dopkam plateau is an important area near India, China and Bhutan's borders.
Dopkam plateau is an important area near India, China and Bhutan’s borders.

Apart from the hostile history of the two nations, the Doklam Plateau is also important for India to maintain its control over a land corridor that connects to its remote northeastern States. China building a road through Doklam surely threatens that control.

A complete timeline of what happened in the recent Doklam Standoff 

On 16 June 2017, Chinese troops with construction vehicles and excavators began extending an existing road southward on the Doklam plateau, near India’s border. It was Bhutan which raised the alarm for India.

On 18 June 2017, India responded by sending around 270 Indian troops, with weapons and two bulldozers to evict the Chinese troops from Doklam.

On 29 June 2017, Bhutan protested against the construction of a road in the disputed territory.  According to the Bhutanese government, China attempted to extend a road in an area which is shared both Bhutan and India, along with China.

Between 30 June 2017 and 5 July 2017, China released multiple statements justifying their claim over the Doklam plateau. They cited reasons as to why the Doklam standoff wasn’t really needed. And how China has not intruded into India’s territory to incite the standoff.

On 19th July 2017, China asked India again to withdraw its troops from the Doklam. On 24th July 2017,  Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in his statement, asked India to withdraw and behave themselves to maintain peace.

India and China seem to never agree when it comes to their borders. BBC
India and China seem to never agree when it comes to their borders. BBC

Also Read: Why India Must Counter China’s High-Altitude Land Grab?

What followed till 16th August 2017 was China constantly alleging India of trying to create trouble. They accused India of trying to disturb the peace and not withdrawing the troops, even after repeated reminders. They also accused India of bullying.

India, however, kept quiet during the whole fiasco, only releasing a statement regarding their stand and position at the Doklam standoff.

On 28 August 2017, India and China finally announced that they had agreed to pull their troops back from the Doklam standoff. The withdrawal was completed on that very day.

On 7 September 2017, many media reports claimed that both nation’s troops have not left the site completely. They were still patrolling the area, simply having moved 150 meters away from their previous position.

On 9 October 2017, China announced that it is ready to maintain peace with India at the frontiers. India reacted in affirmative, the peace was established when Indian Defence Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman’s visited Nathu La.

The issue between the two nations may rise again. Pixabay
The issue between the two nations may rise again. Pixabay

The Doklam issue, for now, is resolved. However, given the history of disputes between India and China, it won’t be a surprise if the issue resurfaces again in near future.