Almost three years ago when the Baloch leader Nawab Bugti was killed by bombardment during the Musharraf-regime, I was moved to research and write a short analysis of Balochistan for the first time. I said inter alia
“because there are two million Balochis in Iranian Balochistan, Pakistan’s Balochi nationalists have had a declared enemy to their west in the Iranian Government ~ the Pahlevi regime even provided Italian-made American Huey helicopter gunships with Iranian pilots to help Bhutto crush the Baloch rebellions of the early 1970s. In fact, Balochi rebels have had no military allies except the pre-communist Government of Afghanistan under Daud, who ‘ordered the establishment of a training camp at Qandahar for Baloch liberation fighters. Between 10,000 and 15,000 Baloch youths were trained and armed there’ (R Anwar, The Tragedy of Afghanistan 1988, p. 78). The Governments of India or the United States lack motivation or capability to help, and Balochistan may be doomed to becoming a large human rights/genocidal disaster of the next decade. An independent Balochistan may be unviable, being overwhelmed by its riches while having too small, uneducated and backward a population of its own, and powerful greedy neighbours on either side… Today, the Pashtun of Pakistan and Afghanistan (as well as perhaps Sindhis of Baloch origin) may be the only interlocutors who can prevent a genocide and mediate a peace between Balochi nationalists and Musharraf’s ruthless Punjabi military-businessmen determined to colonize Balochistan completely with Chinese help, effectively subsidising their misgovernance elsewhere with Balochistan’s riches…”
Raja Anwar had been a close friend and associate of ZA Bhutto, the founder of Pakistan’s ruling party, and his book on Afghanistan published 20 years ago is required reading.
The wonders of the Internet sent me back to this subject a few days ago when a Pakistani website claimed that the American analyst Dr Christine Fair of RAND said she had visited an Indian consulate in Zahedan, Iran, and alleged to her interlocutors that the consulate was “not issuing visas as the main activity” .
Dr Fair’s reported words seemed to me to be surprising, so I wrote to her seeking a confirmation that she had been quoted correctly, when the Pakistani website very kindly sent me the link to her words at a recent gathering of American and British observers discussing Pakistan. This is what Dr Fair said at that gathering on this topic (emphasis added):
“I think it would be a mistake to completely disregard Pakistan’s regional perceptions due to doubts about Indian competence in executing covert operations. That misses the point entirely. And I think it is unfair to dismiss the notion that Pakistan’s apprehensions about Afghanistan stem in part from its security competition with India. Having visited the Indian mission in Zahedan, Iran, I can assure you they are not issuing visas as the main activity! Moreover, India has run operations from its mission in Mazar (through which it supported the Northern Alliance) and is likely doing so from the other consulates it has reopened in Jalalabad and Qandahar along the border. Indian officials have told me privately that they are pumping money into Baluchistan. Kabul has encouraged India to engage in provocative activities such as using the Border Roads Organization to build sensitive parts of the Ring Road and use the Indo-Tibetan police force for security. It is also building schools on a sensitive part of the border in Kunar–across from Bajaur. Kabul’s motivations for encouraging these activities are as obvious as India’s interest in engaging in them. Even if by some act of miraculous diplomacy the territorial issues were to be resolved, Pakistan would remain an insecure state. Given the realities of the subcontinent (e.g., India’s rise and its more effective foreign relations with all of Pakistan’s near and far neighbors), these fears are bound to grow, not lessen. This suggests that without some means of compelling Pakistan to abandon its reliance upon militancy, it will become ever more interested in using it — and the militants will likely continue to proliferate beyond Pakistan’s control.”
Now I have nothing to do with the Government of India and have no idea about the evidence relating to the precise facts being alleged here. But I do have some circumstantial evidence as well as a personal reason to be curious, as my father was an Indian diplomat in Tehran during 1954-1957 and I was in fact born there.
I recalled him having told me he had travelled in that region and today he confirmed that he had in fact, from the Tehran Embassy as part of his official duties as Commercial Secretary and Consul, visited what was then an Indian Vice-Consulate at Zahedan, peopled by a single Indian Vice-Consul with whom he had spent two days.
That was more than 50 years ago — so the “Indian mission” that Dr Fair said she visited in Zahedan is far from being anything new whatsoever. In fact, I would predict it was probably something that existed during British India too and that it was precisely an outpost of British India issuing visas for anyone headed towards Quetta in what was then British Baluchistan.
Could the Consulate be upto anything else? Hmmm, let’s see, how about assisting in the complex overall discussions, now apparently stalled or aborted, between Iran, Pakistan and India over the gas pipeline perhaps?
In other words, there might be any number of perfectly legitimate reasons for India to be represented in Zahedan as it has been for more than half a century — the allegation contained in the American discussion of India fomenting trouble for Pakistan in Balochistan may be entirely baseless.
Did India once support the Northern Alliance? Of course, as did Iran too, but that was all pre 9/11 during the extended Afghan civil war before the toppling of the Mullah Umar Government by the Northern Alliance allied with the United States! That is wholly a separate thing from any claim that India from Iranian soil has caused trouble in Balochistan.
Such an aspersion coming from such a source would be easily and delightedly picked up by those in Pakistan looking for exogenous explanations of their problems. For example, if you watch the video of the ghastly murder of the Polish engineer Piotr Stanczak by the Pakistani Taliban, you will find a demented Pakistani commentator in the background disclaiming any Pakistani responsibility for it saying instead it was all India’s fault and India has been financing the Pakistani Taliban with “billions”! (Postcript June 8 2009: Jemima Khan reported a few days ago: “Pakistan pulsates with conspiracy theories. One, which has made it into the local newspapers, is that the Taliban when caught and stripped were revealed to have been “intact, not Muslims”, a euphemism for uncircumcised. (Pakistanis are big on euphemisms.) Their beards were stuck on with glue. “Foreign elements” (India) are suspected.”)
Such is the extent of the psychosis. “Delta Dawn, what’s that flower you have on…?”
The Government of India obviously needs to address Dr Fair’s claim and seek to squarely refute what she has said in these remarks.
Subroto Roy, Kolkata