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An important trade zone

The strategic importance Balochistan has had a positive as well as a negative effect on Baloch nationalism.

india Updated: Aug 28, 2006 19:00 IST

In his book, The Problem of Greater Balochistan, Innayatullah Baluch writes that the strategic importance Balochistan has had a positive as well as a negative effect on Baloch nationalism.

Because of its location in the Perso-Oman Gulf, with a 700 mile long seacoast, the area has been an important trade zone for the West ever since the rise of imperialism.

Its strategic importance provides an opportunity to the Baloch nationalists to interact with the superpowers in their bid to liberate the country.

During the "Great Game", a major reason for the occupation of Balochistan by the British was to check the advance of the Russians towards the Baloch coast on the Arabian Sea.

During the two World Wars, Britain did not share the occupation of Western Balochistan with the Russians because of the fear of Russian access to the warm waters of the Persian Gulf.

In 1928, Britain refused to recognise the regime of Mir Dost Mohammad Baranzai in Western Balochistan because he was allegedly in contact with the Soviets.

Leading political analyst Dr Syed Jaffer Ahmed says Balochistan had been always important due to its strategic value.

"Balochistan always had a very important strategic position. During the British period, it constituted the border of the British Raj and the British devised a very well thought-out policy regarding it, making Balochistan a secure borderline between itself and Russia.

In 1944, General Money (incharge of strategic planning in India), after studying the constitutional position of Balochistan, favoured its independence.

In 1947, Britain opposed the independence of Baluchistan and urged Pakistan to occupy Baluchistan in order to crush the nationalists and anti-imperialist or pro-Soviet forces there.

Balochistan's strategic importance has increased due to its proximity to Central Asia and the Gulf region, the construction of the Gwadar port, and the proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline.

Two gas pipelines from Turkmenistan and Qatar are also under consideration, which will again pass through Balochistan.

Given this strategic importance, the federal government should cease its military operation and opt for political negotiations.

First Published: Feb 09, 2006 21:18 IST