Being the noisy, squabbling democracy that India is, it is no surprise that its political establishment speaks in different voices on Kashmir. This despite the festering sore Kashmir has long been between two neighbors which control it in parts but claim it in full. Having anchored its tiol identity to be antithetical to India since the days of Partition, Pakistan has, of late, upped the ante sharply on Kashmir. And if there is one message Prime Minister rendra Modi is now seeking to send clearly across the border, it is that people in glass houses should not be throwing stones. If Islamabad can stoke the fires in Kashmir — surely India can poke its neighbor where it hurts, mely Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan and parts of Pakistan occupied Kashmir. After all, these too are restive provinces with their own separatist movements, which the Pakistan army has been quelling with an iron hand. PM Modi has been sigling a change in his stance since last week, when after an all-party meet on Kashmir, he had commented: “Pakistan forgets that it bombs its own citizens using fighter planes. The time has come when Pakistan shall have to answer to the world for the atrocities committed by it against people in Balochistan and PoK”. During his I-Day address to the tion from Red Fort, PM Modi raised the stakes further when he spoke of the gratitude he has received from people in rebel Pak provinces for highlighting their cause. The Congress has predictably taken the Prime Minister to task for being jingoistic, immature and inconsistent; along with the CPI(M), the Congress has pointed out that if India goes about commenting on Balochistan which is indubitably a part of Pakistan, then Islamabad will claim greater legitimacy in raising Kashmir in intertiol fora.
This is not the first time Balochistan has figured publicly in our country’s political discourse. In 2009, when the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed the joint Indo-Pak statement at Sharm el-Sheikh, all hell had broken loose here over a part which read: “…Prime Minister Gilani mentioned that Pakistan has some information on threats in Balochistan and other areas.” The opposition BJP had then protested loudly in Parliament, arguing that Islamabad had succeeded in making India acknowledge its involvement (overt or covert) in Balochistan, and thereby gained a permanent upper hand in interfering in Kashmir. This is because Islamabad has long been alleging India’s covert support to Baloch separatists, a once independent state that had been forced to accede to Pakistan in 1948 by its army. The mineral-rich region has witnessed several major uprisings with widespread allegations of Pak army excesses. Now, the BJP is claiming that PM Modi has merely contrasted the cross border terrorism setting Kashmir afire and the ‘human rights violations by the domestic government’ in Balochistan. Clearly, New Delhi has given up its reluctance, if not diffidence, in loudly reminding Islamabad to mind its own business in its backyard. The Prime Minister has said that while his government is ready to reach out in Kashmir, it will not consider that region in isolation but the state as a whole by factoring in Jammu, Ladakh and PoK. PM Modi’s hardened stance is now being hailed by votaries as a game-changer; for neutral observers, it is a calculated risk with potential to heighten confrontation in the entire subcontinent. The shift signifies that New Delhi has at last woken up to the reality that the Pak military establishment has invested too much in the terror business to pull back now. If this policy of ‘bleeding India dry through numerous cuts’ is to be seen through to the bitter end, then India has to stop pussyfooting and raise the stakes on its own. New Delhi’s acceptance of Islamabad’s invite on Wednesday for foreign secretary level talks shows that it is beginning to make itself heard, having stood its ground to discuss aspects of cross-border terror rather than limiting the agenda to only Kashmir.