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India's 'friendly' concern

Leading dailies in Pakistan say India's comments on Balochistan may affect peace moves, writes Meenakshi Iyer.

world Updated: Jan 05, 2006 15:19 IST

Just when we began to believe that nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan finally struck bonhomie after decades of military confrontation and mistrust, a sully has been fired.

India's comments over spiralling violence in Balochistan have not gone down well with Pakistan, which calls its neighbour's concern as "unsolicited, unwise and unwarranted".

Calling the statement from New Delhi as "extremely ill-timed", Pakistan's leading dailies The News International and Dawn say, "The words used by the Indian foreign ministry about what is Pakistan's internal matter are shockingly provocative and come at a time when the two countries are seriously engaged in a constructive dialogue".

The Indian comment comes just after an agreement has been signed for the launch of a Nankana Sahib-Amritsar bus service and a new round of bilateral composite dialogue is supposed to start and the latest salvo may affect the initiatives.

"...Unless quick damage-control statements are issued from both sides, the third round of peace talks might be affected," the Daily Times said.

The comments have also forced the Pakistani media to contemplate why has India created a tempest at this juncture. Citing reasons, a strongly-worded editorial in Daily Times says, "...India has sensed the strength of the Baloch resistance to Islamabad's moves and thinks it right to make the noises that the Baloch rebels could read as signal to remain firm".

Already there are conspiracy theories in Pakistan about how India may be behind the trouble in Balochistan.

The former Chief of the Army staff General (Retd) Mirza Aslam Baig had said that United States in connivance with India has hatched a conspiracy for the creation of an independent state out of Balochistan and that a major centre espionage in the Panj Sher valley of Afghanistan is actively engaged on this conspiracy.

As for the question of the big brother being involved in the game, it is because it has been opposing the construction of Iranian gas pipeline and construction of Gwadar port.

Citing another reason, the Daily Times editorial further says, "...The other ominous interpretation would be that India, concerned over the prospect of the gas pipeline in the given conditions, has sent a sympathetic cautionary signal to Pakistan, expecting that Pakistan would not take it amiss".

The Iranian gas pipeline will pass through the troubled Baloch area and according to the interior minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, there have already been eight attacks on the gas pipelines and in the latest act of sabotage in the restive Balochistan province, suspected rebels blew up a gas pipeline supplying a major power station.

The Daily Times editorial further asks, "Why should India be more concerned than Iran whose gas will flow through the pipeline and whose border abuts on Balochistan? Second, why couldn't India be more explicit about its 'friendly concern'?"

The media also sees this as India losing interest in the gas pipeline project. "...Balochistan is where the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline will pass. Or is it that, despite its repeatedly expressed eagerness about it, India is beginning to lose interest in the project for some reasons," an editorial in The News International says.

Pakistan has made it clear that the action against tribals and nationalists, who are agitating for autonomy in the province, would continue till the 'writ' of the government is established there. It further asked India to mind its own business and solve its own internal conflicts first.

Meanwhile, India's reaction has raised eyebrows in the certain quarters of the country as well.

India's Former national security adviser Brajesh Mishra had said on Wednesday that Government was not right in commenting on the situation in Balochistan, terming it a "retrogressive step" in the current India-Pakistan relations.

"Are we trying to say that we support the people of Balochistan? And even if we do, should we tell it publicly?" Mishra asked.

In a poll conducted by South Asiaasking surfers whether India has done the right thing, at least 59.46 per centvoted in India's favour and 37.84 per centsaid no. The rest opted to stay calm.

Balochistan is an arid region located in the Iranian Plateau in Southwest Asia, between Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Pakistani Balohistan was conquered by the British Empire on October 1, 1887. In 1948, it became part of Pakistan. Since then, separatist groups in the province have engaged in limited but armed tribal uprisings.

Serious human rights crisis is brewing in the gas-rich province that is currently in the grip of an ethnic insurgency, with the Pakistani paramilitary forces reportedly carrying out a brutal crackdown on Baloch nationalists and even innocent civilians.

To conclude, the moral of the story for India is "Don't look at the speck in another's eye before moving the log from your own eye".

First Published: Jan 05, 2006 15:19 IST