Modi, Balochistan and Gilgit

Published: August 24, 2016
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The writer teaches at IT University Lahore and is the author of A Princely Affair: The Accession and Integration of the Princely States of Pakistan, 1947-55. He tweets at @BangashYK

The writer teaches at IT University Lahore and is the author of A Princely Affair: The Accession and Integration of the Princely States of Pakistan, 1947-55. He tweets at @BangashYK

Decked up in his Sunday best, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressed the nation — and the world — from the ramparts of the famed Red Fort in Shahjahanabad, Delhi, on Independence Day this year. Amidst the usual pronouncements, he also mentioned Balochistan and Gilgit, which led to a severe reaction from Pakistan. While there was also criticism of Modi’s mention of Balochistan in India, these mentions are significant and need closer scrutiny.

Modi’s mention of Gilgit was not surprising; India claims not only the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir, but also Hunza and Nagar, and even Chitral. India has had this maximalist position since independence as it gives it leverage whenever Pakistan raises the issue of human rights abuses in the Indian-held Kashmir valley. So this is nothing new. Of course, the reality of Gilgit is that only a small part of the erstwhile Gilgit Agency, the Gilgit Wazarat, was part of the Kashmir State. The rest of it — tribal areas, and the small states of Hunza and Nagar — were part of the British political agency but not the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Also, in October-November 1947, the people of Giglit rose against the Kashmir Durbar and declared their allegiance to Pakistan. This popular revolt was led by the British commandant of the Gilgit Scouts, Major William Brown, but the feeling that Gilgit should join Pakistan was overwhelming. My book on the princely states describes all these events in detail.

The mention of Balochistan is more significant. It is the first mention of the area after the Sharm el-Sheikh joint declaration in 2009 where then Pakistani prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani inserted a reference to ‘threats’ in Balochistan in the statement. This led to a flurry of negative reaction in India, with several claiming that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had done a ‘sell out’ and a ‘blunder’ by allowing Balochistan to be mentioned in the joint statement. Seven years down the line, not only did Modi mention Balochistan, he also indicated that if Pakistan keeps raising the issue of Kashmir, India will raise the issue of abuses in Balochistan. This is a thought-out and serious change of stance.

Obviously, there is no equivalence between Kashmir and Balochistan. Pakistan’s legal case rests on the premise that the accession of the Jammu and Kashmir state to India was not legal as Indian troops were already in Srinagar by the time the alleged Instrument of Accession was signed. In the case of Balochistan, where about 80 per cent of the now province was the state of Kalat, the accession to Pakistan in March 1948 was legally done and the insurgency led by Prince Abdul Karim did not begin till June 1948. Hence it was never in dispute that the Khan of Kalat, Mir Ahmad Yar Khan, legally and in his own right, signed the Instrument of Accession.

That said, the mention of Balochistan in Modi’s speech indicates that India is angling itself to make that equivalence. It also shows that India is now not averse to accepting that it has a role and say in Balochistan, and is ready to highlight it internationally. This does not augur well for Pakistan. Since the Baloch insurgency is older and more frequent than the Kashmir one, and since there are a myriad of issues in Balochistan, the fact that Kalat acceded to Pakistan legally might just be considered a historical detail. Also, if India keeps talking about Balochistan, Pakistan’s energies might be easily repositioned to dealing with the fallout of that scenario, and the Kashmir dispute might fall on the back burner. India’s public relations are far better than Pakistan’s and with our international image, Balochistan might become a millstone around our neck on the international stage too.

Pakistan should see Modi’s reference to both Gilgit and Balochistan as an opportunity and a challenge. The people of Gilgit have long wanted to join Pakistan, and the time has come to regularise their status within the Constitution of Pakistan. The passing of the CPEC route through Gilgit also gives this issue an added urgency. Pakistan should also now strive to resolve all outstanding issues in Balochistan through real dialogue and effective action. Any more vacillation on both these issues will give licence to Pakistan’s enemies, and in the end only Pakistan itself will be to blame.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 25th, 2016.

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Reader Comments (20)

  • Rahul
    Aug 24, 2016 - 11:44PM

    Kashmiri separatist leaders all live in India and it is easy for India to entice them one by one and cut deals with them to join the democratic process. Baluch separatist leaders all reside outside Pakistan and Pakistan treats them like criminals. It will not be easy for Pakistani state to build the trust negotiations require.Recommend

  • Arijit Sharma
    Aug 25, 2016 - 12:39AM

    Things are heading towards a Afghanistan + India + USA vs. Pakistan skirmish. Followed by new borders.Recommend

  • Alien1
    Aug 25, 2016 - 3:19AM

    Modi played a master stroke, looks like the pakistanis themselves will create a separate balochistan, during the 1970’s faked the reports that india wanted to create a separate country out of pakistan and that is what ended up as bangladeh and this time it would be balochistan.Recommend

  • ajeet
    Aug 25, 2016 - 4:54AM

    Pakistan is between a rock and a hard place. If GB is made part of Pakistan, it validates the division of Kashmir into Indian and Pakistani occupied parts. Raising the issue of Baluchistan was a master stroke as Pakistan has more to hide there than India in Kashmir and the media attention will be on it and the old strategy of bumping off Baluch’s on the road side will have international attention. The vegetarian yogi has the beef eaters on checkmate.Recommend

  • Black Hawk
    Aug 25, 2016 - 6:12AM

    “The people of Gilgit have long wanted to join Pakistan, and the time has come to regularise their status within the Constitution of Pakistan. The passing of the CPEC route through Gilgit also gives this issue an added urgency”

    If Pakistan formally makes Gilgit Baltistan a province of Pakistan, it would pretty much be giving up its claim on Indian Kashmir & making the the current LoC, a permanent border.Recommend

  • Feroz
    Aug 25, 2016 - 9:13AM

    Good suggestions, however rarely have they worked with India and sadly never with Pakistan. If Kashmir keep getting raked up and petrol poured to light a flame, the reaction will ensure Pakistan can never ever see peace. Hard choices remain the need of the hour.Recommend

  • M. Emad
    Aug 25, 2016 - 10:17AM

    As promised (1970) by the prime minister-designate Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to the small nations of Pakistan, his daughter Sheikh Hasina — the prime minister of Bangladesh — is now preparing a ‘Balochistan Policy’. Recommend

  • Mayuresh
    Aug 25, 2016 - 10:49AM

    Just like India has maximalist position on Kashmir so does Pakistan as it refers to Jammu and Kashmir time and again. Reality is majority Hindu Jammu and Buddhist Ladakh would have no interest in joining an Islamic republic or an islamisized freedom movement; so it is the matter of Kashmir valley. It was Pakistan’s trick to include Gilgit in Kashmir dispute to get the plebiscite vote in its favor. Regularizing of LOC with slow opening of traffic both ways is the only real solution. With Pakistan’s long adventures on the LOC, it would be foolish for even a well meaning Indian PM to agree to part with any territory (unlike in case of BD) as it will just move the battle to a new area. Recommend

  • Anon
    Aug 25, 2016 - 11:28AM

    It looks Modi is successful in his strategy, as focus is diverted on Balochistan and Pakistan’s energy is spent on giving explanations over Balochistan issueRecommend

  • HBK
    Aug 25, 2016 - 11:36AM

    Now Pakistan is busy in giving clarifications over Balochistan issue, Pakistan’s energy and focus is diverted………
    this is what Modi wanted !!!Recommend

  • Auginpk
    Aug 25, 2016 - 11:36AM

    Drawing parallels are irrelevant. Bangladesh had not parallel. But it happened.

    Now it is opportunity for Pakistan and its enemy to exploit it.

    It is the means that will determine the outcome. Now probably both are using same means and that will result in similar outcome.

    If Pakistan will adopt reconciliatory measures it will automatically reduce interference from external power.Recommend

  • Higlander
    Aug 25, 2016 - 1:00PM

    “This popular revolt was led by the British commandant of the Gilgit Scouts, Major William Brown”.
    How could a coup staged by a British officers be of an indigenous nature?
    Gloriying a British officer, writer has undermined the sacrifices the local who revolted against the Maharaja when he decide to acced with India. Not only this weekens stance of pakistan over GB but also a fabrigation of events that had taken place at the time of Gilgit revolt. Recommend

  • harkol
    Aug 25, 2016 - 2:05PM

    Legal status of J&K never bothered Pakistan. UN resolution that Pakistan keeps harping about recognized that there is an accession to India, and India’s right to have a force to stabilize Kashmir. It asked Pakistan to withdraw from the occupied areas of Jammu & Kashmir state, so India can establish law & order & peace, before a referendum can be held. Pakistan never did, and even today has – Zero legality in its claim over any part of Kashmir.

    So, if J&K is still an issue – Balochistan too could be. If a separatist movement is there in J&K, it is there in Baluchistan too, as author says – a longer strife than in even Kashmir!!

    When it comes to international consensus – it doesn’t matter if there is a legal claim or not, if majority of nations agree to force new borders, then new borders will come in to being. That’s how international relations work.Recommend

  • Pnpuri
    Aug 25, 2016 - 2:16PM

    The neighbours have to learn to live togather, otherwise citizens of both are losers. As far as Kashmir is concerned let LOC be recognised as a border and good facilities for to and from travel and communication be provided. Once ginnie of jihad is put back in bottle, the restrictions on trans LOC and transborder between two countries can be withdrawn. Earlier it happens good for all.Recommend

  • Srinivasulu Mekala
    Aug 25, 2016 - 3:55PM

    No Pakistani, however intelligent he may be, has grasped the gravity of Indian involvement in Balochistan. Ostrich mentality suits India.Recommend

  • Counterpoint
    Aug 25, 2016 - 4:35PM

    At the end of the day, Baluchistan is a disputed and acceded territory just like Baltistan. Why not Pakistan conduct Plebiscite under the supervision of UN? Pakistan has an opportunity to show the world the path as a great leader. But in the interim, it should pull out the soldiers & stop brutality.Recommend

  • Kickass
    Aug 25, 2016 - 6:54PM

    @Alien1:
    you have already lost NEFA. They have separate currency and speak Thai. You need visa to go there. What a shame. You dare not take pangaa.Recommend

  • fact check
    Aug 25, 2016 - 8:48PM

    “Decked up in his Sunday best, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressed the nation — and the world — from the ramparts of the famed Red Fort in Shahjahanabad, Delhi, on Independence Day this year. ”

    India celebrates its independence day on 15th August which was on Monday not Sunday. In any case dressed Sunday best refers to Christians going to Church on Sunday and Modi is not a Christian.Recommend

  • Rao
    Aug 26, 2016 - 5:58PM

    Where did this new location called Shahjahanabad invented? Is there a place with that name in Delhi ?Recommend

  • ramdar
    Aug 27, 2016 - 2:10AM

    ”Pakistan’s legal case rests on the premise that the accession of the Jammu and Kashmir state to India was not legal as Indian troops were already in Srinagar by the time the alleged Instrument of Accession was signed.”
    Historians have recorded that Nehru made accession as a precondition to sending Indian troops. Moreover the troops were sent at the request of the authorized signatory of the accession to protect Kashmir from invaders from Pakistan.Recommend

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