Impression & analysis about Baluchistan

By Shiraz Paracha


During three days of meetings and discussions with politicians and journalists from across Baluchistan and after speaking to dozens of ordinary people on Quetta streets, my understanding and experience is still very limited about a very complicated and untold story of Baluchistan.
Here is what I felt and saw in Quetta:
A: Impressions
1: Baluchistan’s people of all ethnic origins feel they are being ignored and marginalized by the rest of Pakistan. Local journalists say that their stories and reports are ignored by Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi based editors, directors and commentators/writers. Opinion makers in big cities have little time and understanding of Baluchistan. The national media believe in stereotypes about the province, while describing Baluchistan, the media often act as mouthpiece of certain forces or political actors. At times journalists are simply lazy and don’t want to find facts or provide an objective account of the situation in the province. To a large section of the so-called national media, Baluchistan is big arid place with lots of troubles. The Baluch are presented as wild tribal people who work for foreign countries and fight the Pakistani military.
2: I found many happy and satisfied Punjabi and Urdu speaking Baluchistanis. One Punjabi doctor left Islamabad for Quetta because he likes living in Quetta. Several Urdu speaking professors and lecturers said they feel safe and happy in Baluchistan. Urdu and Punjabi speaking young female journalists work for media outlets in Quetta. A young Urdu speaking lady is the head of Journalism Department, University of Baluchistan. Another young girl from Lahore teaches at a different university in Quetta and there are many more who identify themselves as Baluchistani, not Punjabi or Urdu speaking.
3: The President of Baluchistan Press Club is a Baluch, who speaks beautiful Urdu and several other languages. Not all the Baluchi people disrespect or hate their Pukhtun, Panjabi and Urdu speaking friends and colleagues. There is a beautiful communal harmony in Quetta.
4: Most Pakhtuns in Quetta are successful traders. They can’t afford conflict or trouble because it affects their businesses. Peace suits Pakhtuns. Urdu and Punjabi speaking Balochistanis also run businesses along with their Baluch counterparts.
5: The current Chief Minister, Dr Abdul Malik, and his cabinet members are down to earth people. Mutual respect is conspicuous and a typical characteristic of Balochistani politicians and people. Even in their criticism of each other they do not use inappropriate language or expressions.
6: The most powerful and decisive force in Baluchistan is the Pakistani military. In fact, Baluchistani politics revolve around the military’s right or wrong policies and strategies. All political parties and groups in Baluchistan look at the military for direction and guidance and they also point fingers at the military for their problems.
7: Baluchistan faces acute water shortage. It is a big problem. Quetta and other towns and cities across Baluchistan lack drinking and clean water sources. Water reserves are shrinking fast but the government has failed to respond to this very serious challenge.
8: The Baluchistan government has also failed to deliver or at least this is the impression among many people inside Baluchistan. The Pukhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) of Mehmood Khan Achakzai is criticized the most. Mehmood Khan is accused of doing the opposite of what he preaches. He is also accused of corruption, nepotism and merit violations. The PkMAP has 14 seats in the 65-member Baluchistan Assembly. Local journalists believe it would be difficult for Mr. Achakzai to retain the same number of seats in the next election.
B: Analysis
The Baluch people are spread over Pakistan, Iran, Oman, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. The majority of the Baluchs, however, live in the Pakistani provinces of Sindh and Baluchistan. They have Iranian and Central Asian origins but they live in South-West Baluchistan for centuries. The State of Kalat was functional in the 16th century.
The current province of Baluchistan came into being in 1970 after the end of One Unit. In fact, Baluchistan is not a homogeneous region of the Baluch people. North-west Baluchistan is predominately Pakhtun or Pushtun. If provinces represent ethnicity then present day Baluchistan should be divided into two separate units. The north-west part of the province should be part of Khyber Pakhtunkwa Province or it can exist as separate South Pakhtunkhwa province while central, south and south western areas should constitute Baluchistan.
Pakhtuns have their own problems. They are divided over petty issues. Big egos of political leadership appear to be a cause of the division. Pakhtun leadership in Baluchistan’s Pakhtun belt see themselves different than their northern cousins. A PkMAP minister told me that there was 180 degree difference between the PkMAP and the Awami National Party’s policies and approach. “Both the parties stand for the Pakhtun cause but we are like different ends of a pole”, he said. Some in the Baluch part of Pakhtunkhwa believe that they have a unique and distinctive entity and identity.
South-West Baluchistan under the British Raj consisted of princely states of Kalat, Las Bela, Kharan and Makran. By 1955 Pakistan had annexed all princely states and had brought them under its administrative control by creating Kalat and Las Bela divisions. In 1970, the both divisions became part of Baluchistan province.
The conflict in Baluchistan is older than Pakistan but it became bitter when the Khan of Kalat, Mir Ahmad Yar Khan, had acceded to Pakistan in 1948 against the will of his people. Baluch nationalists say that out of the 560 princely states in the British India, Kalat had a special status because Kalat had signed a treaty with the British Government in London in 1876, not with the British administration in India. Under that treaty, they say, the British were bound to restore the independent status of Kalat after the end of the British rule.
According to Baluch nationalists, Mr. Muhammad Ali Jinnah was legal adviser to the Khan of Kalat before the creation of Pakistan. As the legal adviser Mr. Jinnah had prepared the case for the independence of Kalat. Some Baluch nationalists refer to a meeting that was held on August 04, 1947 and was attended by Mr. Jinnah, the Khan of Kalat and Lord Mountbatten. At that meeting it was agreed that Kalat would get independence on August 05, 1947. Later when that decision was not implemented the Khan of Kalat unilaterally announced the independence of his state. After months of confusion and talks, in April 1948, with Mr. Jinnah’s approval the Pakistan Army moved in and had captured Kalat. The Khan surrendered and had signed the treaty to accede Kalat to Pakistan.
Tribal elders, including a brother of Mir Ahmad Yar Khan and other members of the Kalat Assembly, refused to accept that decision. They accused that Mr. Jinnah, the Governor General of Pakistan, acted differently from Mr. Jinnah, the legal adviser to the Khan of Kalat. They also argued that when the ruler of Kashmir acceded to India against the will of his people, Pakistan didn’t accept that decision and had launched a campaign to liberate Kashmir. But the same Pakistan annexed the state of Kalat against the will of Kalat people. Based on this rational, the Baluch started militant resistance that continues till date.
There were two major boiling points in the Baluch resistance. One was reached in 1958-59 when Pakistan’s military dictator General Ayub Khan had broken his promise by hanging those Baluch resistance leaders, who had surrendered after negotiations. That episode created bitterness among the Baluch people and they lost trust in Pakistan. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had successfully persuaded Baluch nationalists to sit in the Parliament. Baluch leadership had their input in the preparations and approval of the 1973 constitution. It was a big leap towards reconciliation but in 1973 Pakistan launched another military operation in Baluchistan.
The second major incident occurred when another military dictator General Mushraff put fuel on fire by killing a prominent Baluch leader Nawab Akbar Bugtti in yet another military operation.
As a result of the 67 years of resistance and bitterness, the Baluch nationalist groups have lost trust. They are using guns to achieve their goal. Pakistan’s ruling elite, on the hand, wants to impose identities and a political discourse upon a people who are very proud of their history, culture and identity. A complex political, economic and cultural issue will not be resolved through military means or at gunpoint.
In my humble opinion the use of 1876 treaty as a justification for independent Baluchistan by Baluch nationalists is a bit out of date and out of touch argument. The British had occupied and ruled India by signing treaties when and where it suited them. The British would break their own treaties and promises to protect imperial interests. Those were not treaties between equals but between rulers and subjects. Therefore the 1876 treaty is not a good argument for independence.
The Baluch are much better-off being part of Pakistan because geography dictates so. Economic interdependence, trade and transit routes and shared history and culture make a strong and logical case for Baluchistan to be part of a truly federal and democratic Pakistan that treats all its federating units equally, a Pakistan that respects all its people regardless of their race or faith, a Pakistan where all citizens enjoy their rights and fulfill their obligations.
Baluch complaints about the central government’s control over natural resources of Baluchistan and real and perceived exploitation of Baluchistani mineral resources are justified. Gas, for example, is supplied to the whole Pakistan from Sui gas fields in Baluchistan but out of 27 districts of Baluchistan less than 10 get the gas that is produced in the province. It is outrageous. The state and successive governments of Pakistan are responsible for this unfairness. Baluch grievances are absolutely right. The government has to implement the 18th amendment in letter and spirit under which provinces have control on the use natural resources in their respective areas. The 18th amendment is a start further changes for more autonomy or to clear ambiguities can be introduced by mutual agreement .
In Pakistan, a small elite defines and decides Pakistan’s national interest and security policies. It is done in secrecy and behind closed doors. This exclusivity and monopoly of determining national interest and national security policy is the major cause of mistrust between the State and its people.
A decade after the establishment of Pakistan, the military took control of the country and tried to introduce a certain definition of the Pakistani identity. Islam, Urdu language and shared Muslim history are components of that identity. The military see itself as a national institution with a central command & control system. Some in the military also want the same for the Pakistani society—a disciplined nation with strong center. The problem with this approach is that it ignores political, ethnic and cultural diversity of Pakistan.
Pakistan is a federation. In a federal parliamentary democratic system, non-representative and bureaucratic minds alone can’t decide ‘what is the national interest’. Pakistan will not become strong and it can’t progress without openness and transparency. More participation and consultation is needed in defining the ‘national interest’.
The major problem in Baluchistan is the trust deficit between the Sate and the Baluch people. Dr. Malik’s and his team are engaged in bridge building efforts but it is not an easy task after years of misunderstandings and resulting conflicts.
Immigration is another issue that Baluch resistance groups and nationalists exploit. They oppose developmental, industrial and educational projects fearing such projects would attract immigrants from other parts of Pakistan to Baluchistan. They say waves of immigrants will turn the Baluchs into a minority in their own homeland. From this standpoint, Baluch nationalist groups are opposed to the development of Gwadar Seaport, the construction of China Pakistan Economic Corridor and other plans & policies. While many of the Baluch grievances are justified and must be addressed, their opposition to economic development and communication infrastructure projects is wrong. This attitude can be termed xenophobic.
The world has changed. Multiculturalism and immigration are necessary components of economic and social development. The United States is a glaring example of that. Britain is a small island country but it is home to hundreds of communities and cultures which are contributing in the development of the United Kingdom.
Similarly, languages and cultures are assimilating and a new global culture of political, economic and social interdependence is developing. Openness to new languages and cultures is a sign of maturity, confidence and modernity. The more languages one knows the more successful she or he is. In the next 30 to 40 years, English will be the world’s main official and business language. Our children will communicate in this language. But globalization should not mean elimination of local cultures and identities. Nevertheless isolation and fortification on the grounds of very narrow nationalist narratives is not a wise strategy in this age of modern communication and economic and political integration and interdependence.
There is much talk of foreign interference in Baluchistan. The strategic location of Baluchistan and its natural resources attract foreign interest in this region. For example, Oman had sold Gwadar to Pakistan, now, it must be watching the development of Gwadar Seaport closely and so would be the UAE, Iran and other states. If India supports the Baluch resistance such support has a selfish motive of hurting Pakistan. Baluch nationalists are aware how India had opposed Kalat’s independence. For Baluch people, Pakistan will remain a much better option than Iran or India especially in the wake of new economic and political changes taking place in the region.

  • saadhafiz

    Civil-military imbalance by Saad Hafiz

    “The Balochistan quagmire proves that military solutions to political problems do not work.”

    The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) co-chairman and former president, Asif Zardari, recently accused the military establishment of overstepping its domain. Zardari faced a firestorm of criticism for implying that the generals separate themselves from politics and not interfere in civilian matters. His legitimate concerns were buried under sharp attacks on his and the PPP’s weaknesses, foibles and failings. Zardari did, however, manage to re-ignite the perennial debate on the civil-military imbalance in Pakistan. The spectre of military intervention always hangs over the country. It casts a permanent shadow of uncertainty over the democratic process.

    Several factors have contributed to skewed civil-military relations in Pakistan. These include an ineffectual political class and civil society with a limited understanding of democratic institutions and values. Moreover, there is little nationwide consensus on the role and mission of the military. Consequently, the political leadership has been unable to impose the supremacy of parliamentary politics over the military. The military is seen to be the only group capable of preserving political stability and order. This reinforces the perception that the remedy for all social and economic problems can be found in the officer corps rather than the politicians. Some even think that the military’s concept of ‘modernism’ as the sole direction for the country.

    Yet the military leadership, when it had a chance, failed to restructure the country’s political, social and economic life. In fact, the capability of the military institution to transform the state and society is grossly overestimated. Moreover, as dictatorships passed, their political and social machinations quickly unravelled, leaving a bitter and destructive legacy. For example, the Balochistan quagmire proves that military solutions to political problems do not work. Still, the hybrid model of market capitalism and authoritarian governance resonates with the self-styled Kemalists, Gaullists and Putinists among the chattering classes. It helps that authoritarianism is firmly imbedded in Pakistani society. It makes military interventions easier in political life, domestic and foreign affairs. The social and political structure is autocratic in character and functions from the top down. Backed by coercive sanctions, the military-led power elite exercises domineering power and influence over the country.

    At the same time, the missing attributes of statehood tempt a vacuum of authority and an imbalance of power internally. Parts of the country have witnessed bloody sectarian and ethnic conflict; religious militias and the powers backing them challenge state sovereignty at will, strengthening the perception of a failed state not able to control its own territory. The political space is a lair of conspiracies aimed at the country’s hopeful democracy. Democracy is blamed for not tackling important economic and security issues. The very nature of the democratic decision-making process is clogged by cosseted, vested interests and the endless obligation to consult ‘stakeholders’. At times, policies are watered down, ineffectual or counter-productive. Often, no decisions are made at all. Winston Churchill’s aphorism, that democracy is the worst system except for all others, is no consolation.

    But the problem does not appear to be democracy itself or that democracy is overrated. Democracies need people inherently reasonable and inclined towards peaceful compromise and common sense. Instead, citizens want more for less. They demand more of the state but are unwilling to give back much in return. They vote as narrow interest groups inviting politicians to pander to them. Elections are vaudeville shows in which an apathetic public requires titillation to tune in. The weak political culture allows politicians to be disengaged, reluctant to take risks and govern only at the margins. Democracy is set up to fail, overburdened with obligations that cannot be fulfilled. In addition, Pakistan’s nascent democracy must operate under the shadow of an ambitious military.

    However, turning the country over to the military, directly or indirectly, hardly appears to be the answer to broken dysfunctional governance. It seems too easy to blame the corruption and apathy of politicians entirely for everything that is wrong with Pakistan. The people remember past dictatorship years as a blur of bleakness. None delivered the promised economic miracle. They were unable to provide better hospitals and schools, a secure environment, cheaper electricity and new jobs. At times, the air was thick with fear, civil servants were arbitrarily dismissed from service for corruption and malfeasance, politicians and journalists imprisoned and executed, citizens flogged for not falling in line, a military vision that cast citizens as recalcitrant beasts to be whipped into shape. There was little improvement in the quality of governance or a reduction in corruption. Instead, the military’s professional duties suffered as it got mired in fixing civilian problems.

    Pakistan can derive strength from the presence of a well-trained and experienced military that is respected and funded by a civilian authority. The military should acknowledge the principle of civilian control, including the principle of political neutrality and non-partisanship of the armed forces. Democratic control should always be a two-way process between the armed forces and society. Firm constitutional guarantees should protect the state — including the armed forces — from two types of potential dangers: from politicians, who have military ambitions, and from a military with political ambitions.

  • romain

    Saad sb,

    I believe that the desire of the current civilian government to hang onto power at any cost that a soft coup has been allowed to take place. The other explanation is that the govt is aware of how dire the situation is that it has allowed the army to pretty much call the shots. When 40% of your budget goes for debt servicing and 30% goes to the defense, there isnt much any government can do with what remains.
    Add to that there is still a genetic desire to achieve parity with the Indians and keep the hostility alive, there isnt much left.
    The problem with the real rulers of Pakiland is that they keep trying the same approach hoping to get a different result. Normal thinking people would call it insanity.
    I believe this facade of democracy in Pakistan really should be done away with because no democratic government is capable of taking the hard decisions that is necessary to put Pakiland back on track.

  • saadhafiz

    Romain sb: good points. I would go along if the failures of past military or military backed governments weren’t so stark.

  • saadhafiz

    Pak Uses Terrorist Outfits as Proxies: US Army General Outlook India Lalit K Jha | Washington | Jul 09, 2015

    In a tacit acknowledgement that Pakistan continues to rely on terrorist outfits as proxies to serve as an instrument of national security policy, a top American general today told lawmakers that the US and Pakistan have differences on the issue, but asserted that financial and military aid to Islamabad would continue.

    “Areas of divergent interest with Pakistan include our views on the use of proxies and the importance of a positive and stable Pakistan-India relationship,” General Joseph Dunford, the nominee for the position of US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in a written response to questions during his confirmation hearing.

    Dunford said key US strategic interests in Pakistan are preventing al-Qaeda’s resurgence in Afghanistan and Pakistan, to limit its ability to attack America, preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and technology, and promoting regional stability, including a peaceful outcome in Afghanistan.

    Noting that the relationship with Pakistan is fundamental to the US’ vital national security interests, Dunford said the US will need to continue cooperation with Pakistan to defeat al-Qaeda, support Pakistan’s stability, and achieve a lasting peace in Afghanistan.

    Responding to a question, Dunford said Pakistan has cooperated with the US in its operations against al-Qaeda and other terrorist organisations.

    Pakistan’s actions in North Waziristan and other areas of western Pakistan have disrupted groups that are a threat to US personnel and objectives in Afghanistan.

    “We will continue to work with Pakistan to do more,” he said.

  • saadhafiz

    Modi Accepts Sharif’s Invitation to Visit Pakistan Ufa,Russia | Outlook India Jul 10, 2015

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi today accepted an invitation from his counterpart Nawaz Sharif to visit Pakistan to attend the SAARC Summit in 2016 which could be his first to the country.

    The two leaders met here for nearly an hour on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit and discussed entire gamut of issues between the two countries.

    During the meeting, Sharif invited Modi to visit Pakistan for the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Summit (SAARC) summit to be held in Islamabad next year.

    “Prime Minister Modi accepted the invitation,” a joint statement released after the meeting said.

    Modi and Sharif were last together in Kathmandu in November for the SAARC Summit but they did not have a bilateral meeting because of acrimony between the two countries at that time.

  • Ranger99997

    Saad, scary…serious risk to his life, can’t trust the Pakis. Hope he takes all the protection possible.

  • saadhafiz

    Ranger99997 mian: I always recommend using protection…

    Wall chalkings

    Your average citizen is well-informed and intelligent, and if proof were needed that he also has a sense of humour, it’s right here in these wall chalkings across Pakistan:

    1. “Roti, bijli, gas na pani,

    Dil hai phhir bhi Pakistani”

    2. “Pakistan ka matlab kya?

    Haseena Beauty Parlour”

    3. “Iss baar vote kissi insaan kay bachay ko dena,

    Kuttay ya sher ko naheen”

    4. “Rozaydaar! Iftar ko iftar samjho,

    Valima naheen!”

  • Ranger99997

    Who is to guarantee that a Paki security guy / commando does not step out of the line and kill the Indian PM? This is serious danger. Unless Modi bhai gets just Indian security, he should not go. Never trust the Pakis. Even their general is potentially a suicide bomber.

  • Ranger99997

    Wasn’t that Salman Taseer fellow killed by his security guard?

  • saadhafiz

    Yes he was. Taseer’s killer Qadri was sentenced to death but he enjoying his time in jail…

  • saadhafiz

    New Delhi, July 10, 2015 Updated: July 11, 2015 The Hindu

    Modi-Sharif talks a glimmer of light: BJP

    Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar (right) greets Sartaj Aziz, Adviser to Pakistan Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs during a meeting at Ufa in Russia on Friday. National Security Adviser Ajit Doval is also seen.

    The HinduBJP spokesperson M J Akbar: “There is an opportunity of taking the relationship (India-Pak) forward.”

    It’s neither historic nor a breakthrough, says Congress.

    If the BJP applauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first bilateral talks on Friday with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in Ufa, Russia, saying that it has produced a “glimmer of light” in the bilateral relationship, the Congress dismissed it as neither historic nor a breakthrough.

    Worrying for the BJP was that its NDA ally Shiv Sena refused to share the ruling party’s enthusiasm on the issue: “It is unfortunate that Modiji met Nawaz Sharif,” Sena president Uddhav Thackeray told presspersons in Mumbai, pointing out that there had been no change in conditions [on the border]. “I feel he [Modi] is capable of changing the current situation and the neighbouring country needs to be taught a lesson in a manner it understands,” he said.

    Describing the meeting’s outcome as a dilution of India’s long-held positions on terrorism and commitments extracted from Pakistan on the issue, the former Union Minister Anand Sharma accused the Modi government of inconsistency in dealing with Pakistan: “….while External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said in June that there would be no talks with Pakistan, the PM suddenly has a meeting with Sharif,” he said.

    The government’s claims of a breakthrough, he said, were laughable, underscoring the fact that the Prime Minister has not disclosed what Mr. Sharif or Chinese President Xi Jinping told him on Bejing’s support to Islamabad on the Zaki-ur Rahman Lakhvi issue at the U.N.

    Noting that there had been skirmishes on the border as recently as Thursday, Mr. Sharma said the Congress objected to the joint statement: “All evidence including voice samples have been given to Pakistan in the dossier. This statement is a departure and dilution. We would like to ask the PM why he conceded that we have not given evidence. This justifies Pakistan’s intransigence.”

    Earlier, the PDP expressed hope that the two countries would carry forward the J&K-specific confidence building measures: “We laud the efforts made by our Prime Minister and also the bold response offered by his Pakistan counterpart,” senior PDP leader and Education Minister Naeem Akther said.

    Former J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, however, added several notes of caution. “I only hope that this time it is sustained over the long term for results,” he tweeted, underscoring, “We expect that in spite of Pakistan not mentioning Kashmir at all, the issue of Kashmir will receive its due attention going ahead.” There have been too many breaks in this process, he continued, “to allow today’s announcements to excite us much here in the valley but it’s a good 1st step.” Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the joint statement “shows signs of positive movement.”

  • saadhafiz

    International / Opinion Web | Outlook India Jul 12, 2015

    Why BJP Has Bent On Pakistan Pakistan has not changed a single thing.

    It is the BJP and its unhinged supporters who have changed. And this is a very good thing. Aakar Patel

    Prime M​inister Narendra Modi is to be congratulated for his brave move in announcing he will visit Pakistan.

    I do not only mean brave from the point of view of physical courage. I have been to Pakistan many times and not felt unsafe, and it is clear that Modi will find that he is given security of the highest standard. But even Pakistan’s most protected man, president Pervez Musharraf had his convoy bombed twice and its former prime minister Benazir Bhutto was killed not that long ago. So Modi is brave in agreeing to go where even cricket teams have refused.

    The second way in which he has been brave is that he has defied many in our media and also our strategic affairs experts in reaching out to Pakistan decisively. More importantly he is defying those Bharatiya Janata Party supporters who insist that Pakistan only be dealt with firmly or not at all.

    Modi has for a long time been celebrated for thumbing his nose at Nawaz Sharif. India for the last one year has said it will be able to bend Pakistan to its terms. This was the reason that India sulked with Pakistan over non-issues like the Hurriyat meeting the Pakistani high commissioner. On other matters, like the almost incessant shelling across the Line of Control, it has become clear that the BJP could not sustain its posture that India had enough firepower to overwhelm Pakistan decisively. We did not. Given this reality, India would have ​had ​​​to change its attitude towards Pakistan. Modi has done so, as I said, decisively. Visiting Pakistan by a man from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh who has viewed that nation as an eternal enemy is an exceptional gesture.

    My old boss MJ Akbar, who is these days in the BJP as its national spokesman, put a brave face on this U-turn by Modi. He said that “for the first time Pakistan has accepted to combat terrorism in ‘all its forms’.” This is of course a lie. Pakistan has used this exact formulation — rejecting terrorism in ‘all its forms’ — since 9/11. In fact the ‘all its forms’ phrase was specifically used by Pakistan to include what it says is Indian state terrorism in Kashmir! So for the BJP to now call it a triumph is a bit rich.

    The fact is that Modi went to Central Asia this week and would have learnt that any business he wanted to do with them for their natural resources including gas would happen only through Pakistan. India cannot expect to Central Asia to dislocate itself and jump over Afghanistan and Pakistan. If we want good and robust relations with Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan we can only do that after we have good and robust relations with Pakistan.

    There is no running away from geography as that other BJP leader, Atal Behari Vajpayee, often said in his wisdom. I agree totally.

    Anyway, I should at this point toot my own horn. I had written this in November last year after yet another instance when Modi had changed his position on Pakistan:

    “Modi broke off talks with Pakistan without thinking his steps through, in my opinion. He said tough things about Pakistan but this week he was embarrassingly forced to shake hands with an enemy, Nawaz Sharif, despite his decision on breaking off talks. But why was he forced? Because this was inevitable, as some had predicted, since Modi’s policy was neither here nor there. It was merely posturing. Acting tough and inflexible when this was not affordable and was impractical. What benefit has this sulking brought us Indians?

    Nobody in the BJP and none of its ‘hard’ supporters in the media can explain this. Defence Minister Arun Jaitley claimed he taught Pakistan a lesson through killing more of its civilians in border shelling than they killed ours. Assuming this was a lesson, and many Indians will disagree with this, can he guarantee that the shelling has ended forever? If he cannot, what was the point in not talking to Pakistan instead of working towards cooling things when they become heated?

    The hard school of thinking has nothing substantial to offer and this has become clear over the last 20 years. The facts show this. India is not strong enough to muscle its way over Pakistan because the BJP has made the sub-continent a nuclear battleground. India refuses to have international mediation on Kashmir, and, at least at the moment, India will not talk to Pakistan. This situation will change and it is going to have to be India and the hard group that will have to bend.”

    The BJP has bent. Make no mistake, and ignore the brave but empty words of MJ Akbar.

    Pakistan has not changed a single thing. It is the BJP and its unhinged supporters who have changed. And this is a very good thing.