In line with Centre’s policy of further isolating Pakistan across international forums, India’s permanent representative at the United Nations raised the issue of Balochistan for the first time before the global body’s Human Rights Council on Wednesday. Resource-rich Balochistan, which supplies much of the natural gas to the textile industry in Pakistan’s Punjab, has been battling waves of insurgency by Baloch nationalists since 1948. Pakistan's armed forces have been accused of using excessive force in Balochistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. In his Independence Day address this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke of the troubled region, a move that struck a chord with Baloch nationalists.
Maintaining the line of attack
Modi’s decision to raise Balochistan was “unprecedented” according to many observers. Foreign policy mandarins in India have long advocated a harder line on using Balochistan as a “pressure point” on Pakistan. In a recent column for a news media website, former Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran advocates a similar approach: “We have several pressure points which we have been loath to use despite there being no corresponding Pakistani restraint. We have a formal claim on Gilgit Baltistan but since the Simla Agreement we have rarely articulated it, let alone pressed it determinedly. We have been reluctant to receive people from Gilgit Baltistan or raise our voice when their rights are violated. Our silence on the horrific human rights violations in Balochistan is misplaced.
Thanks to its harboring of Osama Bin Laden and Mullah Omar, Pakistan has earned its reputation of being an "epicentre of terror". We could be much more active internationally to exploit that negative image.” In the face of Pakistan’s diplomatic activism in Indian-administered Kashmir, Pakistan will now have to face questions on Balochistan. The aggressive posture taken by the Modi government on issues pertaining to PoK and Balochistan is a well-calibrated attempt to corner Pakistan on their domestic concerns. Although this could force Pakistan to answer some uncomfortable questions about their domestic insurgencies on international forums, it does not change the situation in Indian-administered Kashmir. Moreover, no attempt to corner Pakistan on international forums could come to fruition unless New Delhi can devise a strategy to either co-opt or nullify Beijing’s influence in the region.