China Attacked in Pak: In the Eye of (Baloch) Storm
The China-driven development projects in the heartland of Balochistan have not helped the Balochs at all! No wonder after continuously targeting the Pakistan Government, now they are up against the Chinese expansion as well
Dr Satish Kumar
The Chinese Consulate came under the terror attacks in Pakistan. The Baloch Liberation Army claimed the attack. They are seeking Balochistan's “independence” from Islamabad. They also vehemently against the Chinese projects in the western province that borders Iran and Afghanistan.
Following the attack, Beijing urged the Pakistan Government to "take measures to ensure the safety" of Chinese citizens in Pakistan. More than 15 thousands strong elite Pakistani forces are protecting the ongoing projects of China in Balochistan. Earlier this year China also received terror attacks form IS for its actions against Uyghur in Xinjiang. This attack narrates a different theory.
Anger against China
There is anger against Chinese projects in Pakistan. The reasons are obvious; the benefits which are being generated are not making the lives of Balochs any better. Due to heavy deployment of forces, it has turned to be a military barrack. Chinese cohort supports to Pakistan on terrorism is nose-diving and hitting itself. During the General Election in Pakistan this year, large chunks of Pakistani were protesting against the Chinese initiatives. These projects give few jobs to Pakistanis but strangulate many of them through its neo-colonial knot.
Spread over 147,000 square miles, Balochistan comprises 43 per cent of Pakistan's land mass but has only five per cent of Pakistan's population. It also has immense natural resources and most of Pakistan's energy resources. It has the oil lanes of the Persian Gulf, at the triangle where Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan meet, makes it geopolitically and strategically the most important part of Pakistan. It commands nearly the country's entire coast -– 470 miles of the Arabian Sea.
“The Pakistani side has stated that it will make every effort to crack the case, resolutely crack down on the organisation that committed the crime, and strengthen the security protection of China's institutions, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and Chinese citizens.”
–Geng Shuang, Spokesman, Chinese Foreign Ministry
It is a land that is ruled autocratically by its feudal lords. Historically, it has been a loose tribal confederacy, which owed allegiance to the Persian emperor and the Afghan kings at different times in history. The ethnic origins of the Baloch set them distinctly from Pakistan’s major communities. Quite sometimes they revolted against the Pakistan regime. They have been demanding greater autonomy or even an independent state, which would reunite the five million Baloch in Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan under one flag. Pakistan is conscious of the fact that the socio-political, economic and geographical conditions in Baluchistan provide a favourable opportunity for neighbours to
penetrate in the region. Baluchistan has been Pakistan's Achilles heel.
The region is of importance to India as any pipeline bringing gas to India from Iran, or Central Asia will pass through it. The ruling elites in Pakistan, in their quest for nationalism and national unity, have always tried to suppress any spirit of genuine federalism perceiving it as a prelude to separatism. In nearly seven decades of Pakistan's existence, the Baloch have always been out of the mainstream, and that is why while the Pakhtuns gradually assimilated in Pakistani society with time, the Balochs moved away. The regional aspirations of various ethnic groups and their efforts to assert their sub-national identities pose a potent threat to the Pakistani State. Except for Punjabis, all other groups perceive themselves as Pakhtuns, Balochs, Sindhis or Mohajirs first and Pakistanis later. All these groups also suffer from a persecution complex and feel that they are being discriminated against by the Punjabi elite.
China’s Support to Pak Terror
China has guarded Pakistan in the Security Council through its voting. The LeT and its cover organisation, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), are both designated terrorist organisations by the UN. China has used its veto to protect the LeT and Pakistan. Three times before the 26/11 attack, China blocked efforts to designate the JuD as a terrorist group.
The Chinese are well aware of the close connections between the LeT/JuD and the Pakistani army and
intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), connections which included joint planning of the Mumbai attack. China blocked a proposal by the United States to designate Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) Chief Masood Azhar a global terrorist The US move at the United Nations Security Council was backed by the United Kingdom and France in an apparent show of support for India. PM Modi has said that Pakistan is a factory of terrorism. This has been proved time and again. Osama bin Laden had been living quietly in Pakistan before he was found and killed by a team of US Navy.
Chinese Roadmap at Risk
With the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Beijing aims to expand its influence in Pakistan and across Central and South Asia to counter US and Indian influence. The CPEC would link Pakistan's southern Gwadar port in Baluchistan on the Arabian Sea to China's western Xinjiang region. It also includes plans to create road, rail and oil pipeline links to improve connectivity between China and the Middle East. The Silk Route corridor, Balochistan is a part of this historic project, known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). This corridor envisages a link between Beijing and the rest of Eurasia, as well as Oceania. The Silk Route project involves around sixty countries and is estimated at over US $46 billion.
More importantly, it is expected to give competition to the US transpacific and transatlantic trade and export project, which is currently the world’s biggest trade route. But as things stand, it looks more ominous for China. Chinese are swiftly coming on the radar of terror groups. Last year a video was released by IS to spread a flood of blood in China.
China is intoxicant with money power as America used to be till the 1980s. It believed it could rain the terror at the same time brain them with whamming cash. But 9/11 is a stark reminder to America. China is sunk in the fantasy of running the terrorist through its currency note, but things are falling apart. If the Baluchistan moves with other sub-national groups of Pakistan, great Chinese game at Gwadar Port would be at risk.
(The writer is a faculty member at MMH College, Ghaziabad)