The word humongous goes not well with human tragedy. But such is the enormity of suffering of the proud Baloch people that one fails in attempting to describe it. They have been killed in large numbers and their bodies left scattered on road sides. Their women have been raped, tortured and sold in the dreaded markets of Rawalpindi. Almost 35,000 of their youth who had been arrested have disappeared without a trace. Massive artillery barrages have been brought down upon their settlements and they have also been mercilessly bombarded from air. The leader of Baloch resistance Nawab Akbar Shahbaz Khan Bugti was killed in one such aerial bombing.
Balochistan forms the South West part of Pakistan. It comprises 44% of Pakistan’s land surface and has a 700km coastline which is a major part of a total 1,100km coast of Pakistan and it has less than 10% of the country’s population. The region is largely under developed and it is the poorest province of Pakistan despite being rich in mineral wealth such as coal, iron ore, copper and gold. The area provides 100% of the natural gas requirement of Pakistan.
At the dawn of Indian Independence the Khan of Kalat had decided to remain independent but Jinnah ordered the Pakistan Army to occupy Balochistan which they did with unheard of ruthlessness. The Khan of Kalat was forced to sign an agreement which granted him autonomy in foreign affairs, defence and currency. But the agreement was unilaterally abrogated by Pakistan even before the ink had dried. Balochistan became a colony of Pakistan dominated by Punjabis.
This promptly gave rise to the Baloch Conflict which is a guerilla war being fought against Pakistan by Baloch loyalists. Organisations such as the Baloch Liberation Army, Lakshar-e-Balochistan and Baloch Liberation United Front have fought major actions against Pakistani forces in 1948, 1958-59, 1962-63 and 1973-1977. Each time Pakistan has attempted to crush the populace with increasing brutality and human rights violations.
Pakistan has never learnt any lesson from its experience in the erstwhile East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. Its military commanders and bureaucrats hailing mostly from the Punjab province continue to believe in the same old brutal methods that lost them Bangladesh.
But the loud cries for help rising from Balochistan against Pakistani horrors are now reverberating around the world. Their plaintive wails along with those of the helpless people of Gilgit-Baltistan have at last found a resonance in India prompting our Prime Minister Narendra Modi to extend his compassionate empathy to the sufferings of those hapless people in his address to the nation from the ramparts of the Red Ford on Independence Day.
It is not as though India has not thought in terms of liberating Balochistan earlier. Just as there exists the Gwadar Port 30 km on the Pak side of Iran-Balochistan border there is the Chabahar Port equidistant from that very same border on the Iranian side. In a brilliant move Modi government in May 2016 signed a bilateral agreement with Iran by which India would refurbish one of the berths at Chabahar and reconstruct a 600 meter long container handling facility at the port.
Thus we have achieved a toehold in the region. There only remains the task of building on it. In this we certainly can rely upon the support of Iran. Iran is a Shia nation same as the people of the Balochistan. They are in no way close to Pakistan which is a radicalized Wahabi Sunni nation.
It will serve the interest of both India and Iran if we could permanently station an Infantry Brigade Group in and around the Chabahar Port. Iran may not demur against this arrangement since Pakistan as the exporter of world terrorism has since long been a thorn on the back of Iran.
The aim of our Chabahar Infantry Brigade Group would be to guard our assets there as well as to secure our trade routes to Afghanistan. It would also act as a foot hold and become the bridge head when so ever we move our troops for the liberation of Balochistan.
One of India’s keys against the infiltration of Pak trained terrorists in support of separatists in Jammu and Kashmir lies in the liberation of Balochistan. Once Balochistan is liberated there will be nothing to hold Sindh province from going its way. That would sound a death knell for Pakistan and its terror business.
Therefore as a first step India will have to use all its diplomatic skills as well as its influence the world over to get Iran to agree to our stationing an Infantry Brigade Group in Chabahar permanently and if possible convince them to share the cost.