Speaking from the Red Fort ramparts on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi signalled a distinct hardening of posture on Pakistan, for the first time raising the Balochistan and POK issues in an Independence Day speech.
Modi’s new aggression seeks to rid India of its almost ingrained diffidence over Kashmir. And, his decision to highlight Pakistan’s failings in POK and Balochistan has gone down well with India’s strategic community.
Modi’s tone sounded pacifist but it sent a different message to Pakistan’s military intelligence leadership: “I want to express my gratitude to the people of Balochistan , Gilgit & POK for the way they whole-heartedly thanked me, the way they expressed gratitude to me…. People of a distant land I haven’t even seen….When they thank the Indian PM, it’s an honour for the 125 crore people of the country…”
This was the first instance of an Indian PM using a platform such as Red Fort to tell Islamabad that New Delhi too can target its integrity and unity the way Pakistan does. This has implications beyond the regular Indo-Pak war of words.
Modi’s comments came after a slew of provocative remarks from Pakistan , in particular one by its high commissioner Abdul Basit dedicating Pakistan’s Independence Day to Kashmiris’ freedom. India has already accused Pakistan of involvement in the current spurt of violence in J&K, in stoking violence post the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. Islamabad has thrown substantial diplomatic capital into the battle, working in the UN and with other countries.
Modi deserves praise for responding directly to Nawaz Sharif ‘s comments on Kashmir, former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal said. India’s former envoy to Pakistan G Parthasarathy too described Modi’s remarks as a more realistic approach.
” India’s been more restrained than necessary despite Pakistan constantly carrying out propa ganda on Kashmir, calling it the legacy of Partition. If that’s the case, Balochistan also is a legacy of Partition,” said Parthasarathy . He recalled how Jinnah recognised Balochistan’s independent status before Pakistan obtained its accession.
Modi’s focus on Balochistan is a sea change from the Sharmel-Sheikh joint statement where Pakistan forced through a reference to Balochistan which was vociferously opposed by Indian Parliament, forcing Manmohan Singh to disown the statement. From there to openly acknowledging the struggle of the Baloch people, India is making a very different political statement.
By raising Balochistan and POK , India may tap into the former’s independence aspirations, while the spike in POK violence during its recent elections would be highlighted. India is signaling it could now work on the disenfranchised and discontented people of POK, including Gilgit and Baltistan. If India provides “financial, political and moral support” to Balochistan, it could turn out tougher for Pakistan, already fighting the Taliban and other extremists on its soil.
For years Pakistan has played on the apparent disaffection in the valley. Today, New Delhi signalled it could play the same game.
Equally, Modi’s highlighting of these three regions is a message to Beijing. China, Pakistan’s chief financier and supporter, runs its Belt & Road project through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).This cuts through Gilgit and Balochistan.
If, as a result of Indian “support” the challenges to Pakistan get heightened, it’d have a terrible impact on Chinese president Xi Jinping’s biggest foreign policy initiative. China has committed $46 billion for the CPEC, which will end with Xinjiang joining Gwadar.
Source: Times Of India