PRIME Minister Narendra Modi’s reference to Balochistan, first during the all-party meeting last week and in his August 15 address today, mark a dramatic rupture from his party’s position the last time the B-word was used.
In fact, after Balochistan first figured in the July 16, 2009 India-Pakistan joint statement in Sharm el-Sheikh, the BJP had accused then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress and the UPA government of compromising India’s position on Pakistan, returning from there as “guilty” and had said that “waters of the seven seas will not be able to wash the shame”.
The statement issued by Singh and his Pakistan counterpart Yousaf Raza Gilani, who met on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement summit in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, said: “Both leaders agreed that the two countries will share real time credible and actionable information on any future terrorist threats… Prime Minister Gilani mentioned that Pakistan has some information on threats in Balochistan and other areas.”
Days later, in a debate on this statement in Parliament, the BJP leadership, from L K Advani to Sushma Swaraj to Yashwant Sinha in Lok Sabha and Arun Jaitley in Rajya Sabha, alleged that Singh had reversed India’s Pakistan policy.
Their argument was that including a reference to Balochistan had emboldened Pak leaders to accuse India of involvement in fomenting insurgency in the region.
When asked about this today, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said: “Any comparison to 2009 joint statement is misplaced and unfounded. That time, Pakistan made India acknowledge our involvement overtly or covertly in Balochistan. What Prime Minister Modi talked about is human rights violations in Balochistan and what he said today in his Independence Day speech was the people’s wishes and acknowledgment for raising their issues.”
Yet, the BJP had struck a different chord in the Lok Sabha debate in 2009. Advani had said: “For the first time in last 60 years have we issued such a statement. If they got Balochistan in, why did we not add our point of view in the statement? This is our objection. I fully agree with the views of my colleague Yashwant Sinha that the mention of Balochistan in the joint statement will haunt the country for a long time to come.” (Slamming PM’s Baloch ‘blunder,’ BJP walks out, The Indian Express, July 31, 2009).
Sushma Swaraj, then deputy leader, countered then Leader of the Lok Sabha Pranab Mukherjee who maintained that what was mentioned in the statement was Pakistan’s stand, not India’s: “…What national interest was served by including Balochistan in the joint statement? How is delinking terror from composite dialogue going to serve national interest?”
Then External Affairs Minister S M Krishna had tried to explain. “When the two Prime Ministers met, the question of Balochistan came up and we readily agreed because we have nothing to hide,” he had said.
“Of course, we have nothing to hide,” countered former External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha. “But is this an argument that if we have nothing to hide, we will put it in the bilateral document? The Pakistan Home Minister has said that evidence of Indian involvement in Balochistan would be presented in international forums at the appropriate time. They have accused India of using our Consulates in Afghanistan to train the Baloch and give them the money and the arms….Why was Balochistan included in a bilateral document? No sooner was the ink dry on the joint statement, Pakistani leaders were accusing India of supporting insurgency in Balochistan?…All the waters of seven seas will not wash the shame at Sharm-el-Sheikh.”
Because of the statement, he alleged, the “distinction between the aggressor and the victim has been completely obliterated.”
Jaitley, then leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, had echoed this: “We went to Sharm el-Sheikh as a complainant and returned as a guilty.”
Questioning how Balochistan was included despite Indian Foreign Minister’s admission in Islamabad that Pakistan had not provided “even a shred of evidence,” Ravi Shankar Prasad had said: “We want to ask Prime Minister Manmohan Singh why Balochistan was included in the declaration in Sharm-el Sheik.”
On Monday, BJP spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi said the Prime Minister had differentiated between Kashmir and Balochistan. “He has said what is happening in Kashmir is cross border terrorism and in Balochistan it is human rights violations by the domestic government.”