By Brig Imran Malik
Maverick US Congressmen Rep Dana Rohrabacher (R-California) and Rep Lousie Gohmert (R-Texas) may have laid the foundation of what may eventually turn out to be yet another disastrous US foreign policy faux pas. They want to redraw the borders in South West Asia (SWA) in cahoots with the Afghan Northern Alliance (NA) and a group of angry Pakistan Baloch Sardars (PBS).
This proposed radical paradigm shift in the US approach to SWA is intended to change its entire political structure by creating an independent Balochistan comprising Pakistani, Iranian and Afghan Baloch areas. These US Congressmen intend to synthesize future US interests in SWA with those of the NA and these disenchanted PBS to craft one unified and consolidated US foreign policy approach to the region. This diabolical maneuver, if successful, will allow the US to continue to control the region from a central position long after she withdraws from Afghanistan. That this is intended to secure only US’ own long term interests is a subtle point lost on the angry PBS and the NA!
Reps Rohrabacher and Gohmert arrived at these conclusions in a Conference held in Berlin in January where not only they discussed the future of the NA in a possibly Taliban dominated Afghanistan, but most ominously, held a strategy session on Balochistan as well.
In February they organized a public Congressional hearing on Balochistan and then introduced a Baloch Right to Self-Determination Bill before the US Congress. Region and other experts including Ralph Peters and M Hossein Bor were summoned who stamped their approval on these efforts for such an independent unified Balochistan. M Hossein Bor, alarmingly for Pakistan, suggested “an independent Balochistan stretching from the Straits of Hormuz to Karachi”.
This sinister progression from the Berlin Mandate to the Balochistan Bill has laid down the road map for future US designs on Balochistan, Pakistan!
The US’ imperatives for this proposed policy shift are multifarious.
The Geopolitical Imperatives:
Such a US dominated independent unified Balochistan would literally cut Pakistan to size threatening her existence as a politically and economically viable state. It will unleash very strong centrifugal forces that will cause a further splintering of Pakistan with horrendous geopolitical and geostrategic consequences for the region. It will sound the death knell for Pakistan and may cause a regional chain reaction that even India would find hard to handle.
The US will thus be able to assuage her frustrations with Pakistan and punish her for her many actual and perceived sins. The primary one – being ostensibly responsible for precipitating her calamitous defeat in her disastrous Afghan Campaign! By default, the statures of India and Israel would rise in the region and make them even more dominant, aggressive and assertive. This proposed Balochistan would also serve to contain Russia and China, block their increasing access and influence in the region and keep them and the CARs effectively bottled up and away from the warm waters of the Arabian Sea and the fossil fuel riches of the Greater Middle East Region (GMER). Iran’s envelopment would be total and her ability to project power severely constricted. The US will be most dominant.
The Geostrategic Imperatives:
A severely truncated Pakistan is presumed to be more amenable to pressures applied by the US and its protégé India, the “regional cop-in-waiting”. However, as a natural corollary to this ‘proposed dismemberment’ of Pakistan there would be an immediate and critical lowering of nuclear thresholds in the South Central Asian Region (SCAR) – GMER! The ramifications would be severe, total and with extra regional connotations and dimensions! Balochistan, we must never forget, constitutes the most vital and critical strategic space for Pakistan. It will be but absolutely imperative for Pakistan to employ all elements of power at her disposal to safeguard and protect this vital space so critical for her solidarity, territorial integrity and survival as a unified nation!
Were the US to base forces in this proposed territory of Balochistan she would acquire the strategic and vital central position in SWA. She will effectively control all Pakistani ports including those on the Mekran Coast – Port Qasim, Karachi, Ormara, Pasni, Gwadar, and Jiwani. The US would also be able to dominate Iranian ports of Chah Bahar and Port Abbas . She will also be able to project power and control all shipping through the Straits of Hormuz, the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea and by implication the Indian Ocean. It would also facilitate her to contain Russia and China as well as exert influence over the CARs. The US’ envelopment of Iran would be complete as it would now be surrounded by hostile forces from all sides! Iran’s dominance of the Straits of Hormuz would be critically circumscribed and her bargaining position severely slashed. Pakistan’s and Iran’s nuclear installations would remain under hawkish US oversight and extremely vulnerable. US dominance of the GMER-SCAR will be complete!
The Geo-economic Imperatives:
Such a proposed state of Balochistan would greatly facilitate the US and the West to exploit and harvest its and Afghanistan’s enormous mineral deposits. Furthermore, Balochistan provides the only viable natural trade corridors to link the world’s largest fossil fuel deposits of the Middle East (ME) and the CARs to the energy deficient and voracious economies of India and China. It makes economic sense (for the US) to control and dominate SWA and to solely determine the price and flow of the fossil fuels and mineral riches of the ME, SWA and the CARs! The US would like to create and control East-West and North-South trade corridors within the SCAR-GMER and beyond. The US New Silk Road Project – NSRP, is a step in this very direction that is connecting Europe to the CARs and on to India via Afghanistan and Pakistan. This would also particularly deny China the shortest routes to the ME, African and European markets and beyond from Xinjiang, Western China. Most critically it would deprive China of a most important pearl in her “strategy of string of pearls – Gwadar”! The CARs and Russia would suffer similarly. The US would thus have a firm hold over the economic jugular of the region.
The Modus Operandi:
The first shots have been fired. The next steps will include garnering extensive bipartisan support in the US Congress for these bills and to make them part of US Government policy. The issue will be further internationalized through the UN and its various organisations, the European parliament, European capitals and other international organisations. The western, Indian and some elements of Pakistani media will be exploited to propagate this “Baloch Case” repetitively, ruthlessly and relentlessly. A sympathetic international environment and opinion will be crafted.
The Baloch Case will most probably hinge upon three pillars viz, “Right of Self-Determination, Ethnic Cleansing” and “Human Rights violations”. These themes can still elicit proactive international responses as in the cases of Bosnia Herzegovina (ethnic cleansing) and Sudan and East Timor (right of self-determination). The first demands on these accounts have already been made by the angry PBS, both at home and abroad. Once the case for independence has been sufficiently made on international platforms a Baloch Government-in-Exile is likely to announce a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI). This Government will be immediately recognised by the US and her allies. Next a pliant UNSC will pass the requisite Resolution for the international community to intervene in Balochistan and help the Baloch determine their own future. A referendum or a plebiscite could be called for. An international expeditionary force will also be assembled to enforce compliance to “the international will and the will of the Baloch people,” if need be!
A pliant, corrupt, inept, clueless, naïve, and morally bankrupt Government in Pakistan might just, through sheer incompetence or greed, provide the US the critical room for maneuver to take this sinister design to fruition!
However, the US led international community must realize that Pakistan is a nuclear power and by no stretch of the imagination a push over. The Pakistani nation and its Armed Forces will react very violently and decisively to safeguard the solidarity and territorial integrity of the country. All options, by default, will always stay on the table! Pakistan’s hand must never be forced. Regional and global powers like China, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Germany, France, UK et al and the UN, EU, OIC, SCO, ECO, SAARC etc must play their due pre-emptive roles at the UNSC and all other related international fora to obviate any misadventures that may have disastrous ramifications for the region and beyond. Pakistan-Iran-Afghanistan are likely to close ranks to ward off this threat in the making.
Further the demography of Balochistan must be kept in mind. It has very potent, prominent and vociferous Pashtun and Hazara communities which along with settlers from other parts of Pakistan just do not have any issues with/within the state of Pakistan. Then of all the Baloch tribes the errant ones are but a small part! Thus the whole population of Balochistan is not inclined towards independence or secession at all. Therefore there is no casus belli for any international intervention – diplomatic, informational, political or military – in Balochistan, Pakistan at all.
Sure, there are issues in Balochistan that need to be tackled post haste. But the solution has to be home – made and essentially political in nature. An alien solution cannot be rammed down Pakistan’s throat by force. It will not succeed and will have adverse consequences.
Justice must be provided to the Baloch without delay, fear or favour. Baloch fears and apprehensions must be addressed immediately. Their losses are compensated. Their human rights and dignity must be restored. Missing people must be recovered. Baloch honour, dignity and respect must be redeemed. Balochistan must be developed to parity with the rest of the country. The writ of the Government must also be re-established. Militants threatening the state must be reined in. Interference by certain foreign governments and their intelligence agencies must be thwarted. This is an internal matter for Pakistan. All actions have to be taken by the Pakistanis, for the Pakistanis and strictly within the ambit of Pakistan and Pakistan alone. Period.