Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call to expose atrocities in Balochistan and PoK not only ratchets up rhetoric but is also an attempt to make his government’s Pakistan policy look more assertive.
It is not that the previous governments didn’t take this path. But, they were cautious and mostly kept their plans away from public statements.
“This is a very strong statement to be made in public. That shows the government is taking a tougher line on Pakistan. But implementing it on the ground remains an uphill task”, said MK Bhadrakumar, a former career diplomat who headed the Pakistan division in the external affairs ministry.
In his Independence Day speech on Monday, Modi targeted Pakistan , without naming the neighbour, saying people from Balochistan, Gilgit and Pakistan occupied Kashmir had thanked him for giving voice to their problems.
The “marked shift” in India’s policy came three days after Modi called for exposing Pakistan’s excesses in Balochistan and PoK during an all-party meeting to discuss the unrest in Kashmir, openly being backed by the neighbouring country.
The big question, however, is how will India talk to the residents of these areas to sensitise the international community about their troubles.
Strategic affairs expert Brahma Chellaney feels the Modi government’s Pakistan policy is inconsistent. “Modi’s call to spotlight atrocities in Balochistan and PoK will carry weight if his government pursues a consistent Pakistan policy and takes the lead to draw international attention to the severe repression in these two regions,” he said. “Otherwise, his call will become yet another rhetorical statement.”
Resource-rich Balochistan in Pakistan’s southwest is in the grip of a low-level insurgency, with Baloch nationalist seeking a separate homeland.
In recent weeks, protests have erupted in PoK after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s party won the elections amid charges of large-scale rigging.
Modi’s statement was a clear departure from his earlier approach to ties with the neighbouring country, Society for Policy Studies director Uday Bhaskar said. “No other prime minister in the past made such a bold statement on PoK and Baluchistan the way Modi has done now,” he said, adding the real test would be the resources and efforts the government would put in to walk the talk.
A retired diplomat, who is an old Pakistan hand, had doubts about India getting things done on the ground.
“How will officials go about meeting people from these areas is a challenge. It runs the risk of people being talked to proving to be not genuine voices,” he said on condition that he not be named.
Both the countries are trying to build international support to pile pressure on each other. Pakistan has on several occasions raised Kashmir in UN and even asked friendly regimes to step in.
“No one will give much credence to Pakistan crying wolf against India. Pakistan has been using terror as an instrument of state policy against India and the whole world knows it,” Indian official said.