Baloch activists want support from India without ‘Kashmir lens’

world Updated: Mar 27, 2018 22:11 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Hindustan Times
Balochistan,Baloch activists,Kashmir

Activist Karima Baloch speaking at a Toronto event marking 70 years of Pakistan’s ‘occupation’ of Balochistan.

Activists for an independent Balochistan want consistent backing from the Indian government rather than for New Delhi to approach it through the lens of Kashmir or as a means of countering Pakistani efforts in the Valley.

Baloch Canadians held an event in Toronto to mark what they claim to be the 70th anniversary of the illegal occupation of the province by Pakistan. Several speakers asserted that on March 27, 1948, Pakistan forcibly seized what should have been an independent nation.

The activists welcome the Narendra Modi government’s efforts in recent years to raise the profile of the Balochistan issue, including raising the matter at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. However, there is a concern that the support arises as and when India wants to retaliate to Pakistan’s gambits in Jammu and Kashmir.

Karima Baloch, chairperson of the Baloch Students Organization Azad, said: “We want India to raise the issue as a human rights cause.” She felt this an “important role” India could play since otherwise atrocities against the local populace was not on the world’s radar.

Zaffar Baloch, president of the Baloch National Movement – North America, said that given the strategic alliance that China has with Pakistan, particularly in the context of the development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and Gwadar port in Balochistan, India had an “important responsibility” towards Balochistan in its own interests.

“The Baloch people cannot fight both China and the Pakistan Army,” he said. In a speech, he accused Islamabad of “selling” Balochistan “off to China as a colony” and demanded an end to CPEC projects there and a “halt to Chinese control of Gwadar port and withdrawal of all the Chinese personnel from the area”.

Karima Baloch said that India had the reach to raise the matter of what she described as “genocide” of the Baloch people. “They (India) can put it before any international platform,” she said. Zaffar Baloch agreed and said this was also India’s responsibility as a “regional power”.

The event, titled Balochistan under Occupation, also witnessed the attendance of activists from other movements, including those from Kurdistan, Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and Sindh and speaks suggested greater coordination between the various groups to help amplify their voices in Western nations such as Canada.

“India understands the importance of the issue because it is close to us. We have experienced the rise of the Daesh (as the Islamic State is called in the region) and if that situation worsens, it could affect everyone,” Karima Baloch said.

While the consensus among Baloch activists at the meet was that the Modi government has raised the profile of their cause, it cannot be used as a card to be dealt against Islamabad and instead of sporadic support from New Delhi, it has to be a far more concentrated effort for it to be meaningful in the long term.

First Published: Mar 27, 2018 22:11 IST