Is India's next target Balochistan?
KATHMANDU: Addressing the nation on 15 August from Red Fort, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi accused Pakistan of glorifying terrorism and threatened to aid and assist in the liberation not only of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, including Gilgit and Baltistan, but also her province of Balochistan. Gautam Mukherjee in 'The Pioneer', (18 August) gushed: "The Modi Doctrine is at the beginning of a process to champion aid and abet the liberation movements in Pak-occupied Kashmir/Gilgit-Baltistan and Balochistan. This, to the absolute joy of the resistance movements in these areas, and their exiles abroad."
Much the same chauvinistic mood was manifest in an Indian news anchor's unabashed comparison of Modi with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi - who acted as midwife in the birth of Bangladesh, in 1971. It may hence be germane to recall how Mrs. Gandhi's role has been viewed - outside India - in the context of Bangladesh's creation. Here is one coruscating sampling, culled from Gary J. Bass' 'The Blood Telegram: India's secret war in East Pakistan' (Random House India, 2013): "It is impossible to see Indira Gandhi as much of a guardian of human rights. Her own record - in Mizoram, Nagaland, Kashmir, and West Bengal; in a bloody crackdown in Punjab in 1984; and nationwide in her suspension of Indian democracy in the Emergency - shows scant commitment to such ideals... She certainly saw her chance to smash Pakistan. Indian officials... were also keenly aware of the strategic opportunity handed to them. "The Indian government wanted to hurt Pakistan, to resist China, to heighten its dominance over South Asia, and to shore up border states from Naxalite revolutionary violence, to avert communal tension between Hindus and Muslims, and, above all, to shuck off the crushing permanent burden of ten million refugees." 'The Statesman' however viewed Modi's "fireworks on Balochistan, Gilgit and POK" as "a rather desperate ploy'' and avowed that "the hyphenation of Kashmir and Balochistan does neither much good, as articulated by the (Kashmir) Valley suffering its most violent 15 August for over two decades - without a ray of hope emanating from Red Fort." But far more significant are comments in 'The Hindu' (17 August) by Shyam Saran - former Indian envoy to Nepal and eminence grise - which broadened the scope of discussion to include China, whose foreign minister Wang Yi had just concluded a visit to India. Among several asseverations bearing on Sino-Indian relations, Saran proffers a gloomy balance sheet of China's security-diplomatic woes, including in the Asia-Pacific and ASEAN regions, before presenting a two-option formula for India to deal with China. The first is for India "to acquire and deploy capabilities which make aggressive military moves against India a risky proposition"; the other is for her "to enmesh itself more tightly in the US-led countervailing coalition against China." Saran informs that while there is a body of opinion that believes that India develop into an "independent power", he discloses that "there is a steady creep" towards the second policy option. Meanwhile, in China, as per Saran, "there is anxiety that India might move closer to the US... Beijing has cautioned that India should avoid getting 'entangled' in its South China Sea dispute but there is also an expectation that India will continue to adhere to its policy of strategic autonomy." He then wonders how China might react to "Modi's commitment to the return of POK, including Gilgit and Baltistan to India, and declares: "Without Pakistani control of the disputed territory there would be no CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor)." Continuing, he speculates, "If India additionally encourages antiPakistan militants in Balochistan, this would effectively adversely affect the utility of Gwader port, another key link of the OBOR" (One Belt One Road, Chinese President Xi Jinping's signature initiative).
We shall know, by and by, how China reacts to Modi's verbal pyrotechnics - possibly even before the G-20 summit in China next month or the BRICS summit in India in October. As of this writing, there has not been any official Chinese reaction, either by word or action, possibly because China does not wish that the G-20 meet be vitiated by the airing of bilateral disputes. Yet, over the longer term, it is virtually mind-boggling to envisage how Modi expects to so openly challenge both Pakistan and China - and get away with it! India, after all, is rife with insurgencies and rebellions across vast chunks of territory, including in India-administered Kashmir - movements that could shower enormous, irreparable harm to her, if China were to adopt a titfor-tat policy. When radical Islamic militancy has wrought such horrendous devastations globally, one fails to understand how Modi and his advisers cannot anticipate the possibility of her heavy-handed actions in Muslim-dominated Jammu and Kashmir triggering retaliation by extremist forces such as ISIS. Furthermore, it is very hard to imagine that any long-term or strategic Indo-US deal can be cut at this juncture when the incumbent US administration is on its way out and it is uncertain what the priorities of the incoming American administration will be - even if, for argument's sake, it is Hillary Clinton who emerges victorious in the 8 November presidential sweep-stakes. A new American government, as we know from the past, takes time to settle down and get its domestic and foreign/ security policy act together. A glimmer of hope that India will refrain from taking rash action against Pakistan is New Delhi's positive response to Islamabad's offer of talks to discuss the Kashmir problem. Yet, as Karachi's 'Dawn' reminds, "India cannot deny that, despite the passage of several decades since the dispute emerged, Kashmir remains the flashpoint in the sub-continent and the prime reason for the absence of normal relations with Pakistan." As far as Nepal is concerned, there is the urgent need for a careful and balanced analysis of the situation described above, not forgetting India's interventionist role in the Madesh, the five-month blockade it supported/inspired - and its fixation with Great Power status!