Can Balochistan prove to be a catalyst in transforming India from a middle into a major regional power?

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By V K Patel

It has been a year now, that on the Independence Day, Prime Minister of the Republic of India Narendra Modi mentioned Balochistan in the Red Fort speech. Analysts believed then, it would dramatically change Indian foreign policy in the region and it would be a step further for India’s transition from a middle-power to a major regional-power. From the north, India is geographically blocked by her arch enemy Pakistan and its de-facto ally China, both are armed with nuclear weapons. Pakistan’s ISI uses terror bases from Pakistan occupied Kashmir to launch terror attacks into India. To counter Pakistan and China, India needs an ally in the region which can deter both states and could also avoid an interstate war between the nuclear powers.

Balochistan could be that long-term ally, and Indian policymakers understand it well. Balochistan’s independence struggle is legitimate because it was started soon after the creation of Pakistan and it is not inspired by religious ideology like Kashmir’s Islamist insurgency. Indian policymakers recognize the strategic value of that region but it seems they are unable to understand the internal politics of Balochistan.

Since Modi’s statement, Pakistan increased the human rights violations in Balochistan. Pakistan’s Army uses Modi’s remarks as a justification to increase the use of lethal force against the Baloch population and no one in Pakistan dares to stand against the human rights violations as they fear being labeled pro-Indian and anti-state. On the other hand, as recently reported by The Hindu, Baloch activists are dissatisfied with the Indian Government. Activists of the Baloch Republican Party (BRP) are disappointed because their leader’s asylum application was not accepted by the Modi Government. Despite lack of support, most of the Baloch parties look at India as the only ally which could support them for their independence, but they fear that the Indian government is not understanding Balochistan’s politics and instead of supporting real parties, government institutions are being fooled by individuals who do not represent Balochistan’s freedom struggle.

Among those Naela Quadri is a prominent figure who established herself by exploiting the political opportunities which were created by the sudden shift in Indian policy in August 2016. BRP president Nawab Brahumdag Bugti was alarmed when Naela Quadri declared that she is soon going to establish a government in exile. Quadri’s actions forced Bugti to publicly denounce her and stated that she does not represent Balochistan’s independence movement. Similarly, other Baloch groups expressed their concerns over Naela Quadri’s actions.

On the condition of anonymity, reliable sources from Balochistan told me that Naela Quadri is a non-Baloch who belongs to a Punjabi family settled in Balochistan decades ago. Her father, Syed Ahmed Quadri is an ethnic Punjabi and has no historical connection to Balochistan. Her father was a member of a communist party in Balochistan and opposed Balochistan’s independence movement. Naela Quadri was raised in Balochistan and like her father, she joined a pro-Pakistan left-wing political party during her student life. She married an ethnic Baloch, Musfata Raisani who was never active in Balochistan’s independence struggle. After leaving left-wing politics she joined Balochistan National Party (BNP), a pro-Pakistan nationalist parliamentary party headed by Sardar Akhtar Mengal, but she could not stay there for long as differences grew between party leadership and Quadri. She was expelled from the BNP and Mengal claimed in private meetings that she was planted in his party by Pakistan’s notorious agency ISI. After the murder of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, his grandson Brahumdag Bugti founded a new party BRP and Naela Quadri joined soon after its establishment, but after few years when she started pursuing her own interests and did not follow the party’s line of politics she was expelled from the party. Later, she made connections to some Baloch groups based in Afghanistan. She traveled to Afghanistan and claimed asylum in UNHCR Afghanistan Office. She made a fake case by claiming that her husband was abducted and tortured by the Pakistani army, she was granted asylum and was shifted to Canada via UNHCR’s resettlement program.

After Modi’s independence speech, when Balochistan’s struggle gained momentum in India, she saw an opportunity and made her way to Delhi. She attended seminars and received great publicity from Indian electronic media, which was struggling to find news stories against Pakistan’s oppressive policy in Balochistan. Quadri also launched her son, Mazdak into politics by using Indian media and civil society. Recently it was reported and observed in social media that a commander of the Baloch Liberation Army, Aslam visited India without the approval of his organization and Quadri was the primary factor behind Aslam’s decision. I was informed that his reason of visit was for the creation of a new armed group under Quadri’s political leadership. Most of the Baloch parties see Quadri as an opportunist, and the Balochis also do not see her as a legitimate leader or their representative. Some allege her to be ISI’s mole within Balochistan movement.

If we consider most opinions from major Baloch parties and local activists, it appears that she is a wolf in sheep’s skin. Lack of knowledge of Baloch politics among Indian civil society and government bodies have done more harm than good, as we have supported everyone who preached for Balochistan’s independence without even knowing their true intentions. We are a beacon of freedom and democracy in South Asia and the only hope to the people of Balochistan. They believe that the Indian nation would support their freedom struggle as we had supported Bangladesh in the 1970s. Yet our policies since August 2016 created dissatisfaction among major Baloch parties. Supporting individuals can harm Balochistan’s independence movement, it can also allow ISI to plant their own people as Baloch representatives in New Delhi. Our policy towards Balochistan should match our long-term geopolitical goals i.e. the transformation of India from a middle-power to a major regional-power, and to achieve it we need a weak Pakistan and an independent democratic Balochistan in South Asia. We must strengthen Balochistan’s independence struggle by discouraging individuals like Naela Quadri. We should not allow our taxpayers’ money and our country’s name to be used as the tool of division in Baloch ranks. In summary, good intentions with the wrong strategy will only bring more miseries for the Balochis and weaken their movement. Therefore, I strongly urge our leaders to look into the backgrounds of those who claim to be Baloch leaders and whether or not they are authentic, and if they are genuinely supported by the Baloch people.

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