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Balochistan: Achilles Heel of China and Pakistan

By Sanjay Thapa Jeet

Braving the rain and water logged roads, US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to New Delhi could not have come at a more opportune time. It has not only succeeded in sending ample and clear signals about India’s status as a priority for the US. Rather, it also sends an important message to the regional distractors – namely, Pakistan and China.

This visit came after the open gesture of Prime Minister Narendra Modi towards the repressed citizens of Balochistan during the 70th Independence Day speech. The visit has indeed ruffled more than just feathers for Pakistan. Earlier last week, Pakistan bent and even offered to discuss the issue of Kashmir with India having realized New Delhi’s geopolitical indispensability in Asia given its warm relations with Pakistan’s immediate neighbors, Afghanistan and Iran.

At the recent meeting with Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, Kerry clearly stated, that he wanted Pakistan to bring the culprits of both the 26/11 and Pathankot attacks to justice. He emphasized on the strengthening of ties between the US and India following PM Modi’s visit to the White House in June earlier this year. The Secretary of State even indicated that the US would further strengthen its ties in defence areas, particularly referring to the exchange of logistics and security in South Asia. In addition, Kerry also called upon Pakistan to desist from having double standards for terrorism stating that “there cannot be bad terrorism and good terrorism”. This is expected to send a strong signal to Pakistan and its ally – China, who have both rolled up their sleeves against India after the reference to Balochistan.

At Stake: The China – Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)

Furthermore, China has been flexing its muscles in the South China Sea as well as Balochistan – where it has been working on a US $6 trillion “One Belt, One Road” project, launched in 2013.

Furthermore, China has been flexing its muscles in the South China Sea as well as Balochistan – where it has been working on a US $6 trillion “One Belt, One Road” project, launched in 2013. Also called the Silk Route corridor, Balochistan is a part of this historic project, known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). This corridor envisages a link between Beijing and the rest of Eurasia, as well as Oceania. The Silk Route project involves around sixty countries  and is estimated at over US $46 billion. More importantly, it is expected to give competition to the US transpacific and transatlantic trade and export project, which is currently the world’s biggest trade route.

One Belt One Road

The “One Belt One Road”plan is etsimated around a budget of $6 trillion dollars. | Source: Google Images

The jewel benefit for China is likely to be the development of Gwadar (Balochistan) that would give the superpower greater access to the Indian ocean and the Persian Gulf allowing it to become a two-ocean power. This, as a result, will increase China’s influence on other countries present in the region. Additionally, it would gain 40-year rights to the port, enabling it to save billions in terms of transportation costs and time of oil by shortening the route by  6000 miles. Moreover, in the future, it is possible for Gwadar to be turned into a Chinese naval facility that will, in turn, increase the Sino-Indian maritime competition and amplify the stress for the US too.

Additionally, the CPEC package also includes Pakistan’s purchase of eight, conventionally armed attack submarines from China. This would make it one of Pakistan’s biggest purchases ever, being priced at US $6 billion alongside complicating India’s attempt to block its hostile neighbor.

Growing hostility between India and Pakistan

Since Modi’s mention of Balochistan, Pakistan has gone out to many of its states to highlight its “pain in the neck”, Balochistan.

It is reaching out to various Muslim regions that have claimed to be oppressed. It comes as a redemption to its image after the accusations that the people of Baluchistan imposed.

Moreover, it has not only been on a propaganda overdrive against India but rather is also prodding China against New Delhi. Pakistan seems to have been in constant touch with Beijing, fearing ‘intervention’ by India in Balochistan. So much, that this propaganda has even an influential Chinese think tank stating that any intervention by India in Balochistan would lead to a subsequent Chinese ‘involvement’. However, the meaning of this Chinese ‘involvement’ remains ambiguous.

Talking of Talks: When will they bear fruit?

Needless to say, the country has activated its means necessary to instigate its allies against India. Once before, Pakistan had collaborated with China to oppose India’s bid for membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group(NSG)

Despite three years of stalemate in the Indo-Pak talks about Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Islamabad desists from any covert tactics to malign and incite trouble for India. The turmoil in Kashmir has once again reared its ugly head when the valley has entered a state of curfew crowned by Pakistan-backed reprisals supporting the Burahan Wani backlash.

The Indian government here has clearly taken a stance by stating that “terrorism and talks cannot go together”.

Sanjay Thapa Jeet is an alumni of the Cambrian Hall Dehradun and has worked with the Indian Express and India Today.

Featured Image Source: Unsplash

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