After highlighting the alleged human rights violations in the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), India is preparing to take an aggressive position on Balochistan, in a marked departure from South Block’s Pakistan policy of the past.
The new Indian position over Balochistan became public when Balochistan Liberation Organisation (BLO) representative Balaach Pardili addressed a gathering in New Delhi on October 4, reading out a statement from BLO’s exiled leader Nawabzada Hyrbyair Marri.
BLO, which is in favour of freedom of Balochistan from Pakistan, has confirmed to The Hindu about the presence of its political representative in Delhi. Mr. Pardili, who originally hails from Afghanistan, has been living in Delhi since 2009 and was recently contacted by Nawabzada Marri to represent him at public meetings.
The London-based Nawabzada Hyrbyair Marri is the leader of Free Balochistan Movement with a militant arm, Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), and BLO, the political wing. “I hope to facilitate Nawabzada Marri’s visit to Delhi in near future,” Pardili told The Hindu.
In a statement to The Hindu, Nawabzada Marri said: “We wish that India, the largest democracy, have a clear policy about Balochistan. If Pakistani officials can openly meet the Kashmiri leadership, why shouldn’t India do the same? The Red Cross does not have a hotline on Balochistan despite our repeated pleas. I want India’s help to start a crisis hotline with the Red Cross.”
While the dynamics of the new policy have not been fleshed out, officials confirmed to The Hindu that both PoK and Balochistan will be used more and more when India faces allegations from Pakistan over Jammu and Kashmir. “This is an evolving policy. Remember, that taking up PoK and Balochistan is an old idea that hasn’t been worked upon within the government over the past few years,” a senior official said, referring to a proposal for highlighting human rights violations in Pakistan during the previous NDA government under Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Interestingly, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, who is understood to have pushed the new line on Pakistan, was Director of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) in 2004.
The event of September 4, in which Mr. Pardili featured as Nawabzada Marri’s representative, was organised by Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena which runs namopatrika.com, an e-publication supporting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of “broad-based prosperity” in India. Subsequently, the video of the event was tweeted by some Baloch activists.
Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Pardili said he feels safe in Delhi and has the support of a section of the BJP led by R.S.N. Singh and Tejender Singh of Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena. Mr. Pardili is confident of creating awareness on the oppression of the Baloch people in Pakistan.
“Balochistan is divided among three countries, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran. But the atrocities are taking place inside Pakistan which has conducted five military operations against the Baloch people and the last campaign that they began in 2004 has left 19,000 dead and many more displaced and missing. Pakistan also encourages the Taliban to torture the Baloch inside Afghanistan.”
Tejender Singh says that next, Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena will take Mr. Pardili to the prominent universities of India, including JNU.
The presence of Mr Pardili in Delhi and his allegiance to the BLO and FBM are expected to prompt a debate over a refugee’s right to indulge in separatist political activities from Indian soil. Anticipating that debate, Tejender Singh said that the Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena is determined to fight even a legal battle in case anyone in India challenges Mr. Pardili’s activism in India.
The extent of India’s turnaround on Balochistan can be explained by the fact that India has traditionally shied away from mentioning human rights violations in Balochistan while criticising Pakistan. The mention of Balochistan in the Joint Statement from India-Pakistan meeting in Sharm El Sheikh in 2009 created a furore as the mention was interpreted as a surrender by India. In contrast, the public address by Pardili in Delhi underlines that India will henceforth speak freely about human rights violations in Balochistan.
It also remains to be seen how the Government of India will deal with the presence of Baloch separatists on Indian soil. Speaking to The Hindu, Secretary (East) Anil Wadhwa said that the Ministry of External Affairs is not involved with promoting Baloch activists inside India. "I can say that at least the Ministry of External Affairs is not directly promoting the Baloch representative in India," he said.