Col (R) Muhammad Hanif
Apart from the current uneasy relations between Pakistan and the US, as a consequence of the recent closure of military assistance to Pakistan by asking it to do more on countering Afghanistan related terrorism, there are deeper issues at play in the US to harm Pakistan’s territorial integrity. India in this regard seems to be closely working with the successive US governments and its congressmen to influence them in its favour on the issues where it wants to damage Pakistan.
In fact, in this context, India is struggling to exploit the prevailing geopolitical environment. Being a close defence partner of the US, in the post cold war and post 9/11 environment, where it feels that by exploiting US interests linked with India, it can gain US support in pursuing its anti Pakistan agenda as well. In this game India seems to be succeeding in getting the support of some US congressmen, although not of the US government as yet.
Recently, two, anti Pakistan, US Congressmen namely Dana Rohrabacher and Brad Sherman spoke against Pakistan during a recent meeting of the US House of Representatives. Brad Sherman alleged about HR violations/ disappearances in Sindh, while Dana Rohrabacher alleged that like former East Pakistan, where Pakistan Army had committed atrocities and resultantly it had emerged as Bangladesh, the same is being repeated in Karachi with Muhajir’s community. He also asked for the support of the US to the Balochis and Sindhis who are alleged to be persecuted mainly by the Pakistan Armed Forces and ISI. He also criticized that the control of the Government is with the Punjabis and Pashtuns. Earlier also, in February 2012, Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher had introduced a resolution in the congress, calling for an independent state for the Balochi people. The resolution said “the people of Balochistan that are “currently divided between Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan, have the right to self-determination and to their own sovereign country and they should be afforded the opportunity to choose their own status among the community of nations”.
These above mentioned words of the congressmen appear to be Indian fed as these propaganda themes were extensively aired by India in 1971 before attacking East Pakistan.
In the first year of Modi’s Government (2014), Indian administration had announced its decision to provide shelter to the secessionist Baloch leaders. Indian CNN-News18 had quoted Indian official sources as saying that India was all set to grant political asylum to the Baloch leaders who were fighting for separation from Pakistan. It was stated that India wanted the Baloch leaders to formally apply for asylum and that this would be granted in a matter of a few weeks.
Modi’s this move is meant to create misperceptions in the minds of the US and other world leaders that the majority of the Baloch people wanted to separate from Pakistan. Although such steps by India amount to interfering in Pakistan’s internal matters, but Modi would pursue this policy to harm Pakistan. However, in this context, Modi is grossly misguided if he thinks that India under his premiership can really repeat the situation of the then East Pakistan, in Balochistan and Sindh.
However, in this context, it was encouraging to note that the Obama administration had flatly refused to go along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s stand on Balochistan. The state department’s spokesperson, John Kirby, had said the US “respects the unity and territorial integrity of Pakistan and we do not support independence for Balochistan”. But in a bid to establish India’s hegemony in South Asia by harming Pakistan, Modi administration will continue to negatively influence the US congressmen on Balochistan by feeding them motivated intelligence about the province to ultimately pressure the US Government to support India’s stance on Balochistan. In this context, India appears to be building considerable influence over some of the important US congressmen.
In the third week of August 2017, Congressman Brad Sherman had sent a letter to Alice G. Wells, the Acting Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs and David Hale, the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan expressing strong concerns about human rights in Sindh. In this Sherman was joined by Representatives Barbara Comstoc, Trent Franks, Carolyn Malone, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Dana Rohrabacher, and Adam Schiff. The letter raised concerns about enforced disappearances, religious extremist attacks, and forced conversions. And as mentioned earlier, very recently above mentioned two congressmen have again spoken against Pakistan during a recent meeting of the US House of Representatives.
In the above context, the US congressmen talking about separation of Balochistan and HR violation in Sindh province and India’s involvement in wrongly influencing the US Government, and the US congressmen on Balochistan are dangerous developments which must be countered. In this context, Pakistan should focus on befriending US congressmen through concerted diplomacy and intense lobbying, that is legally allowed in the US. In this regard, Indian efforts to mislead the US and it sponsoring sterrorism in Balochistan should also be exposed.
The author is an ex-army officer and former Research Fellow of Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI), Islamabad.