India might not go to war over Kashmir, but Pakistan will, if push comes to shove, go to war over Balochistan. Here’s why:
Balochistan is economically invaluable – indeed, irreplaceable – to Pakistan. It carries a survivability significance for Pakistan far greater than Kashmir does for India. At 347,200-sq-km, Balochistan constitutes 44% of Pakistan, and is by far its largest province. But, immeasurably rich though it is in natural gas, gold, silver, copper and marble, it has less than 7% of Pakistan’s population.
Then, there is the small matter of the Balochistan coastline of 771-km comprising 73.5% of Pakistan’s total coastline (of 1,049-km). And the equally minor fact that Pakistan’s strategically-critical, China-funded and -built Gwadar port – which is itself located 72-km from India’s equally strategic double-berth in Chabahar port in Iran – happens to be in Balochistan. The province is crucial to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The CPEC is crucial to Pakistan’s plans to shrug off the US funding yoke with China’s geopolitical help and financial aid.
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So, here is the problem with Prime Minister Modi horning in on Balochistan and trying to internationalise an issue that had its first physical acquaintance with some European Union Parliament leaders only on 13-14 March 2016 (when Hammal Haider Baloch, foreign spokesperson for the Baloch National Movement, attended an EU Parliament session as an observer in Strasbourg, France). This was 10 days before Canadian Baloch activist Naela Qadri Baloch visited India to ratchet up support.
Both events happened days after the arrest (on 3 March 2016) of Indian national Kulbhushan Yadav aka ‘Kul Yadav Bhoshan’ (alias Mubarak Patel) in Chaman, Balochistan.
Modi’s Balochistan intervention policy was already being formulated by the time of Qadri Baloch’s visit. It was aired four months after Qadri Baloch’s drop-in, from the pulpit of the Red Fort in Delhi.
There is little doubt that Pakistan’s 19-month-old National Action Plan against terrorism (and the subsequent strengthening of its National Counter Terrorism Authority [NACTA]) has had a terrible, and terrifying, consequence on the Baloch. Even, going by the Pakistan government’s Ministry of Information, Broadcasting & National Heritage, a disproportionately malevolent effect: According to infopak.gov.pk statistics, while the “War on terror has cost Pakistan Rs118.4 billion since 2001, … Balochistan has suffered losses worth Rs4.3 billion…” – or just 3.63% of Pakistan’s losses due to its so-called ‘war on terror’ over the past 15 years.
In purely monetary terms, Balochistan costs Pakistan very little, and returns a whole lot more than it costs. In the same terms, Kashmir costs India a lot, and returns a whole lot less than it costs.
And therein will lie Modi’s problem. In a logical world, it would be easy to see why India would give up Kashmir before Pakistan gave up Balochistan.
But this is not a logical world. Neither country will, to put it vulgarly, give up shit for eclairs.
I think our prime minister has just dug for India a very deep hole.