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Balochistan as a 'negative catalyst' to Talibanisation and rise of radical Islam

Nirendra Dev

Nirendra DevAug 30, 2021, 10:28 AM IST

Balochistan as a 'negative catalyst' to Talibanisation and rise of radical Islam

If troubles in Balochistan rise beyond proportionate, the Pakistani army would be sucked into a war in tough terrain and a hostile environment.

 

New Delhi: It's a challenging time around. The fall of Afghanistan signifies the rise of the Jihadi movement, and this would give a bolster to further rise of radical Islam, especially in the region. India faces an uphill task in dealing with the challenge in the context of 'an unhealthy' atmosphere prevailing around the roles of Pakistan and China. There is also an apprehension that under the given circumstances, the Pakistan-Taliban-China nexus would emerge stronger and could encircle India in the north and western fronts.

Thus, according to observers, perhaps Balochistan and its changing dynamics can work as a dampening force to Pakistan's sinister designs and the radical Islamist forces.

If troubles in Balochistan rise beyond proportionate, the Pakistani army would be sucked into a war in tough terrain and a hostile environment. There are various pros and cons involved in the entire game. The Baloch resistance against Pakistan is legendary, and it has been going on since the 1940s.

From India's point of view, it can be easily stated that a prolonged insurgency in Balochistan would severely impede the Pakistani army's capability to sponsor terrorism against India. Balochis were never interested in getting themselves 'integrated' into Pakistan.

The major issue for people there is of Baloch ethnic identity, and thus as people, they have been looking forward for external support, possibly including from India. In 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his Independence Day speech, had used the 'Balochistan time bomb'. The sickular jingoists had reacted in their usual pattern.

Salman Khurshid, a former External Affairs Minister, had said–"Balochistan is different from PoK. We have every right to talk about PoK because it is our matter. Balochistan is not." But regarding the Baloch issue, PM Modi had taken the Balochistan battle to the Pakistan camp. He had almost turned the table. However, for reasons best known to Modi and his foreign policy team, nothing much has happened or could be heard on the Balochistan matters since then.

Now, the Taliban take over has opened a window, and it ought to be made use of. Pakistan has weakness in Balochistan–perhaps little more than it had about erstwhile East Pakistan. Over the decades, Pakistan's approach towards the Baloch region was military, tyranny and torture. To 'defeat' the Baloch ethnic identity, Pakistan has promoted Islamic radicalism in the region.

"Islamabad has always encouraged Mullahs to propagate fundamentalist version of religion so that Baloch's unique identity gets subsumed in the overall identity of Islam and Pakistani nationhood," an informed source says. People in Balochistan even refer to themselves as 'original Indians', and some feel getting Balochistan' free' from Pakistan would be like 'cutting off the head of the cobra'.

The government of India should also act to prevent efforts being made by Pakistan to accentuate differences between Balochis and Brahuis, essentially only making language an issue of division. To the good fortunes of Pakistan, the Balochistan movement has remained "South Asia's most under-reported armed movement", but maybe this is the time to change the entire scenario. Thus, it is time for India perhaps to highlight all sorts of discrimination that is going on in Balochistan.

The Baloch people feel there is 'deep-rooted' alienation as the locals have been denied representation in the government. There are hardly any Baloch found in federal jobs in Islamabad and the Pakistan army. This is in a situation when the province the Balochis inhabit–Balochistan–is the country's largest, occupying nearly 44 per cent of Pakistan's land area. There is then the case of economic exploitation as natural assets are taken away by Islamabad and the army without giving the natives anything in return. Notably, there is a need for a cautious look, too. 

If 'insurgency' in Balochistan against Islamabad gets intensified, it is apprehended that it could have ramifications in 'Iranian Balochistan' too. Balochis are split between Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan.

Most of the Baloch people are Sunnis, while Iran follows the Shia school of Islam. On the Pakistani side, there is another international angle. The Chinese are seen as 'assisting' Islamabad in Balochistan because of its own strategic interests. Moreover, a continued disturbance in the western part of Balochistan could affect developments related to Chabahar port and the construction of the Zaranj-Delaram road link to provide shorter access to Afghanistan and other central Asian countries.

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