The Baloch leadership which is fighting for freedom from Pakistan and is seeking to return to the pre-27 March 1948 stage when its independence was taken away at gunpoint has welcomed India’s abrogation of Article 370 granting special status to Jammu & Kashmir. The leadership has said that the move has ended Pakistan’s false narrative that Kashmir was a bilaterally disputed region.
The Baloch leadership feels that India has now reached a stage, internationally, where it can help the Baloch nationalists in getting independence from Pakistan: the first step towards achieving this, they feel, will be to establish a Baloch government in exile in New Delhi. This way, India, the Baloch leaders feel, will give legitimacy to their demand and pave the way for freedom of Balochistan.
Several Baloch leaders and their representatives, most of whom are underground for fear of being killed, told The Sunday Guardian that they had approached the UPA-II government in early 2014 which resulted in an informal interaction held in a third country to work out the modalities of the Baloch office or may be a capital-in-exile in India, but the talks ended without any concrete decision as the Indian bureaucrats prevailed over the Indian political leadership of the time and convinced them not to do any such “misadventure” as it would “enrage” Pakistan.
The Indian officials had expressed their worry that if India did something like that, it would lead to an increased aggression from Pakistan on Kashmir.
Khalil Baloch, chairman of the Baloch National Movement (BNM), one of the largest Baloch nationalist political organizations, told The Sunday Guardian that they were prepared on how a government-in-exile would be set up in India if Government of India agreed to it.
“We are a political entity and we will use this opportunity to make the world aware that Balochistan can never be a part of Pakistan; we have nothing in common. We were subjugated by force. It is the moral duty of the Indian government to give us space and opportunity, however limited, to express the atrocities that we are facing in Pakistan-held Balochistan by setting up a government-in-exile in Delhi. We are all prepared, in every way, as to how we will execute this initiative. All depends on the Indian government, how it takes this forward, how it helps us. India being the largest democracy, one of the biggest superpowers in Asia, it is their responsibility to help the Baloch people and give us the permission to establish a government-in-exile. We are already running a government there. We have rank and file, intellectuals, professors, political leadership to keep this movement well directed,” he said.
A close associate of Dr Allah Nazar Baloch, who is seen as the guardian of the entire movement and is the most popular figure among the common Baloch, said that recognizing Balochistan as a separate country was the minimum that India could do without doing anything substantial for the Baloch cause.
“For more than 70 years, Pakistan maintained that Kashmir was disputed and that it belonged to Pakistan. It even went to the extent of renaming one part as Azad Kashmir and the other as India-occupied Kashmir. India, however, chose to play the role of a saint and never supported us and our genuine demand. The ordinary Baloch population is tired of Pakistan and wants to break the shackles; we are just seeking moral support from India, nothing else. Recognizing us as an independent country is the least India should do,” he said.
A source in the Baloch National Movement pointed out that they had experienced leaders such as Khalil Baloch, Allah Nazar Baloch, Rahim Baloch, Meer Abdul Nabi, Karima Baloch, Hammal Haidar, Taj Baloch, Kachkol Ali and Dr Naseem Baloch, and knew how to handle a sensitive issue like a government-in-exile and not take any steps that might trouble India or lead to questions as to why India was helping Balochistan. “We have a mature and experienced leadership which is well-rooted to the ground and knows how to work without endangering its friends,” the source said.
A former chief of one of the intelligence agencies said that if Indian policymakers decided to allow leaders from the Balochistan national movement set up their office in India, it would be a huge but perhaps necessary departure from its foreign policy that it was following.
“Pakistan has made Kashmir a bilateral issue and continues to meddle into our affairs. If we do this (allow the setting up of a Baloch separation office), we will be opening up a new chapter. Balochistan will become an international issue immediately. Some of our policymakers, though, believe that we should not meddle in Pakistan’s internal affairs. The other concern is that whenever something ‘happens’ in Balochistan, Pakistan immediately says that India is behind it. However, my personal view is that we need to take charge of this whole thing (Kashmir issue); for long now, we have been in a ‘reactive’ mode. Balochistan needs to become a part of our diplomacy,” he said.