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Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day speech sought to bring back the focus on Balochistan, nearly seven years after an India-Pakistan joint statement mentioned it, which led to an outcry over the UPA government’s Pakistan strategy.
While the Prime Minister’s remarks were met with angry reactions from Islamabad and a section of opposition parties in India, it received support from Baloch leaders who thanked him for raising the issue.
Islamabad claimed his remark “only proves Pakistan’s contention that India, through its main intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing, has been fomenting terrorism in Balochistan”.
PM Modi’s remarks also faced sharp criticism from Pakistan’s main Opposition leader Bilawal Bhutto, who said he should first account for the alleged “atrocities” committed by India in Kashmir before talking about Balochistan. Bilawal said the words used by the prime minister were “highly provocative, irresponsible and inflammatory”.
“Modi should first stand accountable to the international community for unending and perpetual atrocities against Kashmiris, Muslims and Dalits in Kashmir and in India,” said Bilawal, chairman of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).
Pakistan today further said that PM Modi crossed the “red line” by talking about Balochistan and asserted it will “forcefully” raise the Kashmir issue at the UN General Assembly session next month.
Foreign Office Spokesperson Nafees Zakaria alleged that India was involved in subversive activities in Balochistan and Karachi and the Balochistan remark was aimed at covering up its human rights violations in Kashmir.
Zakaria’s reaction came a day after India accepted Pakistan’s invitation to visit Islamabad to discuss aspects related to cross-border terrorism, which are central to the current situation in Jammu and Kashmir. India has, however, insisted that it would talk only on “contemporary and relevant” issues in Indo-Pak relations and not Kashmir.
Reacting to Zakaria’s statement that Prime Minister Narendra Modi crossed the “red line”, the Ministry of External Affairs on Thursday said it finds it an extraordinary remark by a country which recognises no red line in its diplomacy.
“I find this an extraordinary remark from a senior functionary of Pakistan that recognizes no red lines in its own diplomacy. Pakistan’s record of cross-border terrorism and infiltration is at the heart of the problems in the region today. And this not just India’s view. You can ask some other countries in the region too,” Vikas Swarup, spokesperson of Ministry of External Affairs, said.
Meanwhile, Baloch leaders showered praise for the prime minister’s stance on Balochistan. Khalil Baloch, chairman of the Baloch National Movement, said in a statement that the “policy of indifference towards Pakistan’s war crimes in occupied Balochistan that include both ethnic cleansing and genocide, adapted by the international community is worrying. The Indian Prime Minister’s statement on Balochistan is a positive development.”
“Baloch nation hopes that the United States and Europe will join Prime Minister Modi and hold Pakistan accountable for the crimes against humanity and the war crimes it has committed against the Baloch nation in 68 years of its occupation of Balochistan and during the five wars that the Baloch nation has fought with Pakistan to win its national freedom,” added Baloch.
Back home, PM Modi’s remarks created consternation among the political establishment, with the Congress party aiming to discredit the Prime Minister for taking up the issue of Balochistan and supporting the cause of Baloch leaders. Congress said the PM Modi is not the first one to talk about Balochistan, insisting that the UPA government had consistently spoken about the “spiralling violence” and “heavy Pakistani military action” in the region.
“Congress and UPA government have condemned the human rights violations in Balochistan as also in PoK by Pakistani forces and establishment on multiple occasions in the past,” party’s chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala said, noting that the first time the UPA did so was on December 27, 2005.
Congress further fine-tuned its attack on the Modi government for its ‘inconsistent’ foreign policy, with party leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi asking the government to end its “knee-jerk” policy with Pakistan and fix problems within the country first before raising issues such as Balochistan.
“It has become almost impossible for us to track this government’s daily changes in policy. One day, we are talking at Ministerial level, one day we are talking at Foreign Secretary level, one day we are calling off. I am waiting for a stable policy,” said Singhvi.
National Conference leader and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah too directed his angst at the PM and said he should discuss about the part of J&K which is burning. “If PM wishes to talk about Balochistan he can, but he should also discuss about part of J&K which is burning,” said Abdullah.
The NC leader also urged the prime minister to engage in dialogue with Pakistan. “When you say Kashmir is integral part of India, you are talking of land not people. Make people yours too. We are supporters of a dialogue process between India & Pakistan, we believe that a dialogue is the only way. It is responsibility of both PM Modi and Nawaz Sharif to create atmospherics for dialogue,” he said.
Even the CPI(M) wasn’t on the same page as the Prime Minister on Balochistan when party general secretary Sitaram Yechury lashed out at him for referring to “human rights violations” in Balochistan and Gilgit during his Independence Day speech. Yechury had said it would give Pakistan an opportunity to “internationalise” the Kashmir issue.
“On Monday, in his speech, the Prime Minister spoke about human rights violations in Balochistan and Gilgit. We have been saying that Kashmir is an integral part of India. Nobody has the right to interfere in its affairs. But now we have started talking about Balochistan,” said Yechury.
Meanwhile, the RSS supported PM Modi’s remarks saying India is morally right to rake up the Balochistan issue. Senior RSS leader Indresh Kumar had said that India is “morally right” to rake up the Balochistan and Gilgit Baltistan issue and claimed that Pakistan treats its own people like “third grade citizens” and uses bombs to crush muhajirs and provincial independence movements.
He claimed Modi raising the Gilgit-Baltistan and Balochistan issue was morally right when the provinces are plagued with difficulties and witnessing murders.