India must remember that Balochistan is not Bangladesh

Published: September 12, 2016

According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), at least 153 bullet-riddled bodies were recovered in Balochistan in 2014. AK-47 assault rifle, 2011. [Baluchistan/Flickr]

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Independence Day Speech on August 15, 2016 raised the issue of Pakistan’s human rights violations in Balochistan. This has brought a new excitement in New Delhi, particularly among the right wing commentators as if India has finally found a solution to the Kashmir issue.

Since the death of a charismatic militant Burhan Wani in the hands of the security agencies on July 8, 2016, Kashmir is witnessing unprecedented violent protest. Modi and his advisors hope that Kashmir unrest will come to an end if India starts spreading the fire in Balochistan. If Modi and his advisors really believe that the Balochistan threat will dissuade Pakistani agencies to stay out of Kashmir and the contested state will be peaceful forever, they are living in a cloud-cuckoo land.

History shows that Pakistani military establishment does not succumb to Indian threats. Instead, it uses this threat to accumulate more power for itself. India’s direct support to the East Pakistan liberation movement, which resulted in the creation of Bangladesh, did not succeed in changing the perception of Pakistani agencies. It only exacerbated their paranoia towards India further.

In the last decade, while Western attention has been mostly on the Taliban, the separatist struggle is turning quite violent in this scarcely populated but mineral-rich province in the south west of Pakistan. The Baloch have waged two major violent ‘freedom’ struggles against the state: an uprising from 1973 to 1977, which was crushed by the Pakistani Army using brute force. The second on-going struggle started in 2005.

It is no secret that India has been supporting the separatists in Balochistan in their fight again Pakistani military without openly admitting it. Baloch activists have repeatedly admitted of receiving India’s ‘moral’ support and a representative of Balochistan Liberation Organisation (BLO) has been living in New Delhi since 2009.

Pakistan has been regularly accusing India for using its consulates in Jalalabad and Kandahar to fund, train and arm Baloch militants. A decade back, senior officials of Pakistan had even alleged that 600 Baloch tribals were being trained by India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) in Afghanistan to handle explosives, engineer bomb blasts, and use sophisticated weapons.

Pakistan has failed to provide much proof about Indian involvement, however, according to 2010 WikiLeaks cables, US and British intelligence cautiously agrees with the Pakistani accusations. Last year, Pakistan had handed over a dossier to the United Nation’s Secretary General containing ‘evidence’ of Indian support to violence in Balochistan. In March this year, Pakistan claimed to arrest an alleged RAW operative from Balochistan. India has been always denied these accusations, but has continued to remain engaged unofficially.

However, by openly committing India to Balochistan’s cause in his speech, Modi is likely to expose India’s geo-strategic limitations without gaining any additional advantage, and there is a lot to lose.

It is important to keep in mind that the Balochistan issue is not a straightforward one for India to directly engage in, as was the case with East Pakistan. India does not share a common border with Balochistan and is therefore dependent upon Afghanistan to provide more support to Baloch separatists. This is not as easy as some hawks in India tend to believe, especially as India is struggling to get enough security cover even to protect its own assets in a fast-deteriorating environment in Afghanistan.

India’s expanded engagement in Balochistan might also bring Iran on Pakistan’s side because Baloch nationalists have not only pitched themselves against Pakistan but against Iran as well. Balochs form a majority in Iran’s Sistan and Baluchestan provinces and, like the Kurds, they are Sunni Muslims. It is not hard to imagine an Iran-Pakistan axis developing rapidly to prevent Baloch aspirations for independence.

So getting bogged down in Balochistan risks turning Iran into India’s enemy of India.

When India went to war with Pakistan over Bangladesh in 1971 it had the blanket support of the Soviet Union, one of the two superpowers in the Cold War. If India picks a fight over Balochistan, Pakistan will receive support from China whose $46 billion USD China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) investment in the region is at stake and it is unlikely that any global or regional power will come out openly on India’s side. Both its old friend Russia, and new ally the USA, have tried their best to stay out of the Balochistan imbroglio to date. There is no reason to expect that they will change their stance now.

Not only is Balochistan not East Pakistan, the Pakistani military has moved on since the early 70s. In 1971 their most prized possessions were the Patton tanks, but today it is their tactical nuclear weapons. After the country split, Pakistan did not just sulk and accept Indian domination, it decided to acquire a large nuclear arsenal by hook or crook. Unlike India, Pakistan has always been very clear about its purpose in acquiring nuclear weapons: to defend itself against Indian aggression. And unlike India, Pakistan also refuses to commit to a ‘no first use’ of their weapons.

Based on the amount of fissile material Pakistan has produced, it is estimated to have 110-130 nuclear warheads compared to India’s 100-120. Both now possess ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and sea-based nuclear delivery systems. Most importantly, Pakistan’s recent deployment of tactical nuclear weapons for its artillery arsenal has taken away any advantage India had previously in the case of a conventional war. This seriously limits India’s manoeuvrability to intervene militarily in Pakistani territory, whether to retaliate against any terror group or support any ‘separatist struggle.’

Provoking Pakistan to an armed conflict now is like playing with fire. If India threatens the territorial integrity of Pakistan as it did in 1971 there is a real possibility of that the Pakistani military will retaliate with its prized weapons. It has the capacity to launch a nuclear strike against India within eight seconds and could strike Delhi in five minutes.

Even the Indian policy of massive retaliation against the first use would not reduce the ability Pakistani nuclear missiles have to reach several Indian cities in minutes. Even a limited nuclear confrontation could therefore potentially kill millions in India.

So unless Narendra Modi is prepared to sacrifice half of his country’s population to win against his nuclear-armed adversary, he should tread carefully. Pakistan understands well that India cannot openly engage in Balochistan conflict as it did in the case of Bangladesh. It is too much of a risk for India to gamble on. A self-assured Pakistan has already called Modi’s bluff, and is even using Modi’s speech to blame India for the domestic insurgency that it has created in Kashmir.

So contrary to the claim of certain Indian commentators, Modi’s bravado from the Red Fort on Balochistan will not deter Pakistani meddling in Kashmir now or in the future. Instead, it threatens to embolden Pakistan further in its desire to maintain its campaign and retaliate in India’s other soft spots like Punjab and Assam.

This post originally appeared here.

Ashok Swain

Ashok Swain

The author is a Professor of Peace and Conflict Research at Uppsala University, Sweden. He tweets as @ashoswai (twitter.com/ashoswai)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Saad Ramay

    we might think this one in dreams that iran will go against India.Recommend

  • Cynic Dharam

    India intervened in East Pak (sharing border with Ind) because of huge refugee influx directly affecting the country (and in a way to smash Two nations theory and avenge Partition). With nuclear capability and First nuclear strike doctrine (even if it decimates Pak’s own territory to repel Ind forces out), no need for Pakistanis to get paranoid……we both have got better things to do !!Recommend

  • shaan

    Good satire, Mr. Ashok. Enjoyed reading.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    Ashok, doing nothing is not helping either so it is better to harm Pakistan in the process of getting harmed rather than this being one way traffic.

    As far as Pakistani military accumulating more power and its society becoming paranoid with India is concerned, the more the better for India and I think that is exactly what Modi is working on. We must not fight a war with Pakistan but need to make Pakistan believe we are about to fight one in future, the bottomline is an economically fractured Pakistan is what India should work on.

    If the Soviets can collapse, Pakistan can too.Recommend

  • Fahad Khan

    Very wise article and salient points raised by the author. Basically the Indian state is opening suicide for itself.Recommend

  • nasir ali

    But then if Soviets can collapse, India can too. This nonsense comment made by you is made sitting from the comfort zone of your home. Read the history to understand the horrors of war. Recommend

  • nasir ali

    US AND RUSSIA refrained from starting a, war just because of tactical weapons. Otherwise you would not be sitting and making comments from your homeRecommend

  • Aamir – Toronto

    @Sweedhin…….stop living in fools paradise, Pakistan army will annihilate India before anything (God forbid) happens to Pakistan !!!!

    Historically, Indians are backstabbers and cowards !!!Recommend

  • Aamir – Toronto

    @Madhaya Yadav…….H-Heinous, H-Hindustan, H-Hell….what a killer combination !!!!Recommend

  • Aamir – Toronto

    And we’ll annihilate India, trust me !!!!Recommend

  • Aamir – Toronto

    Your armed forces kill innocent and unarmed people, look what they are doing in Indian held KashmirRecommend

  • Indian

    The author though well researched and wise, treats this as a 0 or 1 scenario. In today’s world of nuclear weapons and deep-state-assets, conventional warfare is neither Pakistan’s weapon nor should be India’s (so far India was only trying to improve its conventional weapons). Fighting against an invisible enemy like Pakistan-trained deep-state-assets, is always asymmetrically difficult for India’s conventional assets. The key FP question for Modi is who to fight a “thorn with a thorn” without becoming a terror training ground itself? This is where moral and media support to Baloch people’s own voice is a masterstroke, First, such problems do not get solved in days or weeks (see Kashmir) and that this cat-and-mouse can go on for a while giving Pakistan’s real foreign officers like M/s Hafiz Saeed, Salahuddin etc. something else to be worried about. Second, for Pakistan to get Balochistan situation under control, they will have to embrace true democracy and civilian control (currently Baloch is military controlled, both in business and security). This can only be good news for India if Pakistan becomes a stable representative democracy. As Sun Tsu would say – “you need the threat of war to bring peace”.Recommend

  • rationalist

    Baluchistan is not Bangladesh. It is also certainly not Pakistan.Recommend

  • Auginpk

    It is quite liberating to read such article. It shows the glibness of the foreign correspondents.

    So far removed from history and off course the sense of cause and effect.

    Pakistan army in its third year of Zarb-a-Azab but still struggling.

    India did not tried to take any tactical benefits of this unnecessary engagement of Pakistan army.

    Author has also forgot that in all violent attacks Pakistan was the leading party.

    Regarding Baloochistan. Drawing parallels is irrelevant. When push will come to shove. It will happen.

    However, India do not want further dismemberment of Pakistan. Bangladesh was essentially forced on India. The burning of Indian aircraft. The pressure of almost 10 million refugees. No support for India from any civilized western countries.

    The writing for the India was on wall.

    Further, it is the strength of Pakistan army due to which in Pakistan everybody criticises civilian government knowing fully well their hands are tied.

    Well in total the questionable article.

    Further the nuclear arms are not toys.Recommend

  • ab1990

    Don’t worry.we will make sure pakistan is removed from the world map if and only if we decide on suicide.Recommend

  • nasir ali

    Bro Mr. Modi has just signed a treaty withUS allowing US boots on Indian soil. We should get prepared for Pakistan like trwatment by US in the next decade at the most
    From an Indian Recommend

  • Vectra

    Yes India very well knows and remembers as well that every issues are not same so as Bangladesh and Baluchistan but i think GOI knows much more that what normal outsider like common citizens,so called experts and analysts and like this author Sweden professor know as GOI has more information and intelligence data with them than these above so called intellectuals.Therefore when the head of the stale India’s Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi in his Independence Day Speech on August 15 speaks about Baluchistan and its NSA had earlier warned Pakistan then i think they very well knows what they are speaking publicly and i assume they speak it publicly because they very well knows that if needed they can do the job done what they have warned or talked about.Recommend

  • tatvavetta

    Mr.Ashok Swain
    Please understand Kashmir is not first and last dispute with Pakistan. Dispute with India is survival elixir for Pakistan.Creation of Pakistan is essentially continuation of Muslim power in South Asia rather than bring justice to Muslims of the region.Pakistan will always use its nuclear capability to blackmail the world community to gain favours in form of arms,aid, and political favour. Expansionist policy is the basic policy of Pakistan which shall remain threat to world peace till eternity. Pakistan will always meddle in affairs of its neighbours. It will be naive to think otherwiseRecommend

  • vinsin

    Indian Muslims will survive.Recommend

  • vinsin

    Why accepted partition in the first place then, if you want to do this circus? You can partition India again to prove that TNT is wrong.Recommend

  • vinsin

    What USA has to do with this circus? Missile shield as of now is only available on Delhi and Mumbai. It is work in progress and yes in next 10 yrs it would be completed. Cities within 100 KM from Pakistan-India borders are not safe.

    Only during war India will get to know how good those interceptors are.

    Interceptors wont work in case of an attack by a fighter jet.Recommend

  • vinsin

    So why Indian PM Morarji Desai allowed Pakistan to become a Nuclear state?Recommend

  • vinsin

    And India will again sign Simla agreement which will accept defeat. India will return POWs and Pakistan wont.Recommend

  • Vectra

    Yes India has interceptor and it is unlikely that not all Pakistan’s nuke can strike New Delhi like if they throw 10 then definitely 1 or 2 are going to make it but it has grave consequences and that is if India retaliates then assuming India also fires 10 such number of nuke then entire Pakistan is going to be destroyed as against India 1 or 2 cities.So yes in this case Pakistan may not survive while India will in some days shed the dust and move ahead but the question if despite such people will get killed on both sides may be less on India’s side and more on Pakistan’s side but still people gets killed.So the more better option is universal nuke disarmament of all 9 nuke states including Russia and US.Recommend

  • sridhar

    India does not have the capacity to directly intervene in Balochistan due to logistic reasons. Not she has any intentions.
    However, India does have capacity to raise profile of Balochistan internationally, just like Pakistan is doing with Kashmir for decades.
    World believes Pakistan harbors terrorists. That is what the perception is.
    World is now coming to believe there is a big human rights violation going on in Balochistan. Many Senators have talked about this in US.
    India can do Pakistan immense damage diplomatically, politically to Pakistan.Recommend

  • Parvez

    You missed out on some demographics which plays a big art in sustaining your view point .
    In 1971 Bangladesh population was about 68 million and land area 130,000 sq.kms.
    Today Baluchistan’s population is about 13 million and land area 347,000 sq, kms.
    The population density plays a big part in such arguments.
    Interesting read, non-the-less.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    I guess in authors first language, Namaskar would be “Nomaskar”, isn’t it?

    “Swain Babu” is spot on though.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Anglos on both sides of pond are tired and cannot keep their technological edge without Indian brains.Recommend

  • numbersnumbers

    Wrong, US and Russia refrained from starting a war because of STRATEGIC Nuclear Weapons tied to a central command authority! Tactical nuclear weapons have largely been withdrawn because of unacceptable risks of local initiation of nuclear attacks!Recommend

  • Mike Pilgrim

    Pakistan will never allow India to reduce Pakistanis to the state of Kashmiris, where India imposes a military dictatorship on Pakistan. Indian terrorist infiltration of East Pakistan’s colleges and universities influencing students to revolt was aided by language, Bengali and Hindi sharing the common Devanagri script and the devastating 1970 Bhola cyclone, casualties of the cyclone were blamed on the Pakistan Army. India showed its terrorist belly when Indian troops crossed the border to assist Mukti Bahini terrorists. Neither of these events are available in Baluchistan, the Baluch language has nothing in common with India, nor is their a huge natural disaster in Baluchistan that India can exploit. Im 1971 Pakistan had not completed development of strategic nuclear missiles, had no indigenous tank and fighter aircraft production. 2016 is a nuclear missile armed Pakistan with nationally produced tanks, ships and fighter aircraft. Pakistan will not allow its population to be militarily occupied by India like Kashmir.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    India is not just a nation, it is an idea, an idea which has proven itself all across the world. Communism is still an ideology being conceived by much stronger individuals compared to the idea of Jinnah and ideology of Pakistan, if Communism with all its history has failed all across the world, what is Pakistan’s chance with its artificial and concocted ideology?

    The only argument you probably can make is who has more blood on his hands, was it the Quaid of Pakistan or the poster boys of Communism.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    I have just hit the like for your comment which you cannot undo just the way you cannot undo the creation of Bangladesh. If you are wondering why did I like your comment, it is because my enemy is a bigger enemy of himself than I am of him. Keep it up.Recommend

  • Rajiv

    No we don’t trust you
    never.Recommend

  • Rajiv

    Indian Army is killing terrorist in Kashmir.Recommend

  • Dafour

    “India is an idea”

    One which has proven to be remarkably fragile considering partition, warning Hindu predecessors and great Mughals leaders who you do not even consider “Indian”

    And btw it was the Hindus who ran amok in Bihar, East Punjab, and Kashmir. This blood is on Indian hands which you continue to defend.Recommend

  • Aamir – Toronto

    I don’t care !!Recommend

  • PK

    1971 wasn’t a day dream and mindless ranting wont help you :)Recommend

  • Rajiv
  • Aamir – Toronto

    The entire world also knows are sending these terrorist in Pakistan……don’t worry the chickens always come home to roost !!!Recommend

  • Aamir – Toronto

    And you are not more than a clown throwing tantrum !!!!Recommend

  • Aamir – Toronto

    Typical Endian mentality, you think that world will buy your lies about 1971 war !!!Recommend

  • ab1990

    Good joke. Keep dreaming. He even was welcomed in saudiRecommend

  • PK

    revisit the conversation, the evidence is there to see. Your responses are all rants Recommend

  • abhi

    So whoever your army kills automatically becomes terrorist?Recommend

  • Mike Pilgrim

    “Use of force against a military is not called terrorism” therefore Kashmiris use of force against Indian military is not terrorism. You Indians are not very intelligent.Recommend

  • abhi

    In kashmir, they are not using force against military, they are killing civilians by plantin throwing granades and bombs in public area and this is the difference (I am not sure if you will be able to understand it)Recommend

  • Aamir – Toronto

    I guess, I stepped on your tail by pointing at India !!!!Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    Don’t worry mate, we are used to it, your nuisance pales Recommend

  • Garuda

    “Kashmir has never been a part of India…” Leave the kashmir, what is now Pakistan… was always been part of India..Recommend

  • Garuda

    Policies of demented leadership of naPak.. has endangered the security of the people of the subcontinent..there is no sanity has been left at that side of border..Recommend

  • Garuda

    Ideology of Pakistan.. the two nation theory.. has already failed.. that is why..bangladesh exist.Recommend

  • Garuda

    Don’t be silly .. there is a conflict going on in Balochistan…between Balochies and Pak State.. and four options are there for Paks friends and foes..
    1) close your eyes & don’t see anything 2) Lip service only in favor or against balochies 3) actively work with both and other stakeholders for the resolution of the conflict..4)actively work with both and other stakeholders for the exacerbation of the situation as much as one do..(which is what Pak is doing adamantly in Kashmir).. now as Pak has proved again & again to India .. and also sending the reminders again & again of the same.. that if there is an all time enemy of india it is Pak.. hence india’s choice can be anybody’s guess in above context.. and a country with india’s capabilties.. Recommend

  • Garuda

    Dear .. Cruise missile defence is being used against the manned aircraft…Recommend

  • Garuda

    Lion.. you armchair keyboard warrior..Recommend

  • Garuda

    only Pak will cease to exist on the world mapRecommend

  • Garuda

    what do you say about the sucidal policies of the demented Pak leadership.. towards bigger & more powerful.. Nuclear Armed neighbor….someday it will be erased from the face of the earth..Recommend

  • Garuda

    when you have an insane neighbor, it is always difficult to pacify a border state like kashmir.. But policies of demented leadership of Pak.. is creating problems for muslims worldwide..Recommend

  • Garuda

    You still dreaming.. your time is up..Recommend

  • Mike Pilgrim

    There never was an “India” that is a false statement. What is now called India, created after 1947, used to be an area with many independent kingdoms. Kashmir was one of those independent kingdoms. Indian lies and jingoism leads Indians into ridiculous statements.Recommend

  • Mike Pilgrim

    The Indian idea of sanity is to claim India is a democracy while it runs a brutal murderous military dictatorship in Kashmir.Recommend

  • Subrahmanya Pradeep Morusupall

    East-“India” company is named so after 1947?Recommend

  • Mike Pilgrim

    American Indians were named that long before 1947. Conflating the Mughal Empire with current India is deliberate deceit. You forgot about the West India Company, such is the level of your jingoism.Recommend

  • Aamir – Toronto

    You don’t know about my ancestors, I belong to Ghaznavi family and I’m sure you know who was “Sultan Mehmood Ghaznavi”, read the history if you don’t know !!!!Recommend

  • Garuda

    you talk democracy at home baby..Recommend

  • Mike Pilgrim

    SECDEF Chuck Hagel is on record stating India is a state sponsor of terrorism. Period. End of report.Recommend

  • Garuda

    I never said you are a Pakistani.. Just asked you to.. be awake and return to your roots.. Recommend

  • Garuda

    All along Pakistan has always been a part of India.. so all Pakistanis are Indians.Recommend

  • Garuda

    ” Modi is advocating the use of force, not democracy, to overthrow the Government of Pakistan” .. Modi has better things to do than doing such a thing. But yes, if Pak doesn’t mends its ways, it will be up in flames. Modi was actively working to improve the relations with Nawaz Govt, going as far as visiting Mr. Sharif on his birthday, unannounced. But Pak stabbed in the back by doing Pathankot and Uri. Enough is enough. If you feel terrorized, it is your leaders and deep state only, that are responsible. Stop barking at the wrong tree.Recommend

  • Garuda

    Your arguments are devoid of substance and contrary to the established facts. Wish you could have gained true knowledge through neutral work on the history of the subcontinent instead of relying on naPak’s distorted version of history, which it keeps spoon feeding to innocent kids and those kids talk like you when grow up. Fact is India is naPak’s Baap. It was always so and will remain so. May God help you by throwing light on your path and helps you to come out of the darkness.Recommend