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BALOCHISTAN: International dimensions


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BRIEFING PAPER
Number 6106,
2 January 2018
*Balochistan: Pakistan's forgotten conflict*

House of Commons UK
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International dimensions

Although from time to time it has raised concerns relating to human rights issues and called for action to address the causes of instability in the province, successive US Administrations have taken the view that Balochistan is an internal security matter for Pakistan.

The US has consistently provided support for Pakistan’s counterterrorism efforts, despite sometimes feeling that its partner is not doing as much as it could do to tackle the jihadi armed groups on its territory – including the Afghan Taliban, many of whose leaders are based in Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan. Since taking office, US President Donald Trump has often been critical of Pakistan’s counterterrorism performance; he isthreatening to significantly reduce funding to the country.

US security personnel have in the past been based in Balochistan, including at Shamsi base, southwest of Quetta, from where drone attacks targeting Afghan Taliban figures in Afghanistan were reportedly launched between 2004 and 2011. This presence was ended in the wake of the killing by US forces of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan without the prior consent of the Pakistani government . To our knowledge, no US security personnel are currently based in the province.

There are US concerns that Gwadar, which is strategically located at the head of the Straits of Hormuz, might be used by the Chinese as naval base in future. It is currently used by the Pakistani navy.

The UK’s stance on Balochistan has been similar to that of the US. Between 2009 and 2011 UK personnel provided counterinsurgency training for Pakistan’s Frontier Corps at a facility in Balochistan. However, this also came to an end following the killing of Osama bin Laden. At the time the MOD told the Guardian the training teams were ready to redeploy at the first possible opportunity”. But there is no indication that this training ever resumed.

So far China has viewed insurgency in Balochistan as very much a security issue – the Pakistani army, which has allocated thousands of soldiers to defend CPEC projects, comes under relatively little pressure from it to explore political solutions.

India has regularly expressed concern about human rights abuses in Balochistan, including at the UN. However, some doubt whether this reflects a genuine concern on its part, arguing that India largely uses Balochistan to counter Pakistan’s criticisms on the issue ofKashmir. There are fears that Balochistan has become an additional site of proxy conflict between India and Pakistan.

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