Stones and glass houses
Predictably, Pakistan’s Foreign Office hit the roof — issuing a passionate, verbose MYOB to India. And three of Pakistan’s leading English language newspapers expressed their outrage too. ‘Unwise, Unwarranted‘, writes the Dawn, while the daily News protests the ‘unsolicited concern‘. Going in a little more deeply, the Daily Times examines the reasons for India ‘butting in’ before concluding that ‘it would be wrong not to do the right thing just because India has pointed to it’. Central to all these objections is the belief that India had no business expressing concerns of any kind over what the Pakistani government does in its own territory. Despite decades of lamenting what they call ‘human-rights abuses’ in Kashmir and expressing concern for Muslim victims of communal violence in India, the Pakistani press is finding it hard to digest that Pakistan is now at the receiving end.
Indeed, it is well past the time for India to be concerned about Balochistan. It is absurd to carry on negotiations on the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline even as tribal militias blow up hundreds of gas pipelines and the Pakistan army conducts major military operations in the region. The Daily Times counters that if this were a valid reason, then Iran too should be concerned. That Iran has decided not to raise it publicly does not mean that it is not concerned. It just means that it has decided not to raise it publicly now. Recall that it is Pakistan that is excited about creating ‘mutual dependencies’ with India — and if India is dependent on stability in Balochistan for this project, it has every right not just to express concern, but to do what is necessary to alleviate its own fears.
The Daily Times also speculates whether India’s statement is a signal to the Baloch rebels to stand firm. Assuming this is true, isn’t it Pakistan that long made a virtue of extending ‘moral, diplomatic and political support’ to jihadis in Kashmir? If it has chosen to play a dangerous game, it should expect to receive, at the very least a small fraction, of what it gives. Not to forget Pakistan’s concerns for people in the distant Palestinian territories or Chechnya that compel it to criticise Israel and Russia respectively.
The principle of non-interference in other countries’ affairs is meaningful between democracies, and even there it is not absolute. Contemporary history is filled with numerous instances where the international community has waited far too long before intervening. Intervention — diplomatic or military — for humanitarian reasons is perfectly legitimate. That such intervention does not take place as often as it must is very often due to geopolitics.
The ‘peace process’ caused the Indian government to turn a blind eye to the Pakistani army’s hamfisted handling of the Baloch insurgency. But with Pakistan showing no signs of ending its support for cross-border terrorism, the Indian government saw an opportunity to send a quick signal to Gen Musharraf. The real driver of India’s sudden concern for Balochistan may have been realpolitik. But that is another valid reason, given the circumstances. What was that about people living in glass-houses?