By S. M. Hali
Prima facie, Balochistan is in the boon dogs and like the subsequent governments in Pakistan, who ignored it, one would expect the world also to remain oblivious of its existence. The truth is to the contrary and the key lies in its location. The province itself, on its north shares the border with volatile Afghanistan, to the West, with Iran, which lays claim to territories in Balochistan and to the South, the Arabian Sea, from where plies the bulk of international maritime traffic, conveying oil supplies from the Middle East. Baloch insurgents would like to form an independent “Greater Balochistan” by liberating the Pakistani province of Balochistan and territories in Iran and Afghanistan. These insurgents are aided and abetted by western powers because the strategic location of Balochistan and the rich mineral resources of the province attract them to expand their influence on the region.
Unfortunately Balochistan lacks technological prowess and economic resources to exploit its minerals and untapped resources. The government of Pakistan, which is blamed of criminal neglect of the impoverished province, has finally woken up to allocate resources for the development of Balochistan. It has reached out to its time tested friend China in this regard. Chinese government, which is a rational one of course, realizes the benefit that will accrue to it through its investments in Balochistan, is reaching out to develop and maintain the port of Gwadar as well as develop the infrastructure for the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). This corridor will comprise a rail, road link and gas/oil pipe line from the port of Gwadar to the Chinese city of Kashgar in the Xingjian province adjacent to Gilgit Baltistan. Additionally, China is planning to invest $12 billion in multiple projects in Gwadar and other parts of Pakistan, including construction of a refinery which will have a processing capacity of 60,000 barrels of crude oil per day. The use of Gwadar by China, especially for its oil supplies will not only provide an alternate to the Gulf of Malacca but reduce its transit of oil by nearly 5000 kilometers.
The great game in Balochistan has been on for decades. In 1979, when USSR invaded Afghanistan, its plan was to push southwards through Balochistan and reach the Arabian Sea and thus fulfill the dream of Peter the Great to reach the warm waters. India has been part of the great game in Balochistan, since it has been supporting Baloch secessionists. When it became apparent that China was going to help Pakistan develop the strategic port of Gwadar, owing to its intense rivalry with China and to pursue its own dreams of becoming a world power, India chose the path of staking its own claim on the energy highway of the 21st century in Chahbahar. India is in the process of constructing the Chahbahar-Milak-Zaranj-Dilaram road from Iran to Afghanistan, while the 213 kilometers long Zaranj-Dilaram section in Afghanistan’s Nimroz province has already been completed. It is also assisting Iran in upgrading the Chahbahar-Milak rail track. For Iran, a well developed rail/road infrastructure from Chahbahar stretching to the Afghanistan border translates into greater influence in Afghanistan because it is also attempting to provide Afghanistan an alternate route for transit of its trade via ports.
Besides India, the US is also perturbed over Chinese control over the strategic port of Gwadar. Thirty five percent of the world’s oil trade plies through this route, adjacent to Gwadar. The US, its allies and India would not like to see the control of this port with China and enable it to monitor the world oil supplies transiting from the gulf of Hormuz.
In this great game, western powers have been backing Baloch separatists and have been urging their governments through motions in their parliament to legitimize their incursion in the strife torn province.Unfortunately certain foreign agencies including CIA and RAW are using Baloch dissidents and anti Pakistan NGOs like “American Friends of Balochistan” and individuals with hideous personal reputation like Ahmer Masti Khan – a known passive gay, to promote their agenda in Gwadar. Regrettably Ahmer Masti Khan writes letters to Oman embassy in Washington seeking help of Sultan Qaboos to defeat the alleged “Pak-China Plan” to takeover Gwadar. He also distorts history that Gwadar was part of Oman, disregarding the fact that Gwadar was purchased from Oman by Pakistan on 8 October 1958 for US Dollars 3 million. At the time, Gwadar was a small and underdeveloped fishing village with a population of a few thousand. The Pakistani government integrated Gwadar into Balochistan province on 1 July 1977 as the district headquarters of the newly formed Gwadar District. In the 1993, the Government of Pakistan formally conceived the plan to develop Gwadar into a major port city with a deep-sea port and connect it with Pakistan’s highway and rail networks.
In pursuit of their Great Game in Balochistan and Gwadar, the various protagonists are using their protégés like Ahmer Masti Khan, mentioned earlier. It must be noted that Ahmer Masti Khan is not even a Baloch. He was born in Myanmar and raised in the USA. His ancestors may have been of Baloch origin but he himself does not have the right to speak of Baloch rights, when he has hardly ever set foot o Baloch soil. It is up to the patriotic Baloch people to reject the odious propaganda of the detractors who are trying to disseminate false information and propaganda through their mouth pieces to promote dissent and provoke insurgency in Balochistan.
It is our primary duty to expose the Great Game in progress in Balochistan and Gwadar and depict the true face of agents like Ahmer Masti Khan. Regional dynamics of the Great Game, if understood by the people, they will enable them to appreciate that the development projects like the CPEC, which will bring sustenance and livelihood to the Balochis, will also bring prosperity since besides China, land locked Afghanistan and Central Asian Republics would benefit from the economic corridor and transit of trade goods.