Baloch nationalist leader Brahumdagh Bugti has decided to apply for political asylum in India, adding to Pakistan’s displeasure over the new turn of events. What role India plays with the Baloch nationalists remains to be seen, but with this new development, India may just own the free Balochistan movement in coming days. It will be in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts to raise the issue of Pakistani atrocities in Balochistan at an international stage and Bugti will give New Delhi significant leverage. Should India choose to grant him asylum, he will join the likes of the Dalai Lama and the family of former Afghan president Mohd Najibullah to be given asylum in India.
Till now, India had shown only outside support to the Baloch cause. The issue came under focus at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s last Independence Day speech when he acknowledged and questioned Pak oppression of Balochis. This was a major shift in India’s geopolitical stance, and came a day after Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif raised the issue of Kashmir in his Independence Day speech.
Every year mass human rights violations are carried out by Pakistani armed forces in Balochistan — Pakistan’s largest province — against anyone who challenges the writ of the state (Pakistan). However, an independent Balochistan will not be a simple feat. Balochistan’s sovereignty will encroach on three provinces in Afghanistan and one in Iran as well, both countries that have cordial relations with India. So New Delhi will, of course, want to remain out of these negotiations.
Bugti, founder and leader of the Baloch Republican Party, has been in exile in Switzerland since 2010. He initially took political asylum in Afghanistan after his grandfather, Baloch nationalist leader Akbar Bugti, was killed in Pakistan. When Pakistan pressured Afghanistan to extradite him, he took exile in Switzerland.
Although there is a huge strategic interest attached to Balochistan, India will do good to give a reasoned hearing to the Baloch leader on the latter’s asylum request. A buffer state in Tibet was a bonus for India with an overtly aggressive China lurking beyond the long borders as the asylum was granted to the Dalai Lama was majorly on humanitarian grounds. India shared a spiritual connection with the Tibetan people and it was reciprocated equally. The same amnesty can be seen between India and the Balochis who have for quite a few years shown their appreciation to India and PM Modi for acknowledging their struggle.
Balochis have for years raised the issue of state-sponsored killings, disappearances, discoveries of mass graves, state support to the Taliban and other matters in Balochistan, but Pakistan has gagged every voice. Pakistan’s interference in Kashmir has forced India to speak on behalf of Balochistan and Bugti crossing over will chart a new course for India-Pakistan relations.
During the Afghan Afghan civil war between in the early 1990s, Afghan president Mohd Najibullah was killed. His family was driven out of the country and they were given asylum in India. The family still lives in Delhi. The Dalai Lama remains at his spiritual sanctuary in Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh. He was given asylum in 1959 after the Tibetan uprising and was followed by thousands of Tibetans who now call India home.