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Balochistan is back in spotlight after ban against Baloch Liberation Army (BLA)



Devasher argues that the proposed Chinese settlement in Balochistan has dangerous implications as this would change the demography of a sparsely populated region.

By Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury, ET Bureau | Jul 15, 2019, 06.09 PM IST

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Balochistan is Pakistan’s most neglected region and its elected representatives are not taken on board while executing Chinese projects.

NEW DELHI: The ban against Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) has brought back focus on the impoverished but resource-rich Balochistan, whose strategic location is being exploited by China for its strategic needs.

China plans to settle 500,000 nationals in Gwadar as part of its China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project in Balochistan, adversely impacting cultural, geographical, economical and historical rights of Balochs, according to people aware of the matter. They said the crackdown on Baloch political activists and separatists by Pakistan Army in recent years has been spurred by China for smooth implementation of the Gwadar portproject and CPEC.

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“Balochistan is as much sensitive for China as it is for Pakistan. Chinese projects have been at the receiving end of BLA since last year as Chinese presence expanded in the province,” said one person.

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The Chinese model for Balochistan’s Gwadar port is Shenzhen and the port will allow China a listening post to monitor Indian Navy in the region, argues Tilak Devasher, member, National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) and author of a recent book titled ‘Pakistan: The Balochistan Conundrum’.

“A decade ago, when Musharraf offered Gwadar to the Chinese to build a port, the model was Dubai. The Chinese model for Gwadar is not Dubai but their own port of Shenzhen. Zhao Lijian, the deputy Chinese ambassador to Islamabad stated, thirty five years ago, Shenzhen was just a fishing village, like Gwadar. It has been transformed into a modern industrial city,” Devasher writes in his book.

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The author, who was formerly with the cabinet secretariat and has followed developments along India’s western borders, mentions in his book that the Chinese even want to float yuan as a currency in Gwadar. “In a meeting of senior officials in Islamabad on 20 November 2017 the Chinese side proposed making yuan legal tender in Gwadar. This was indeed intriguing. If it was about helping yuan become an international currency, why should it be legal tender only in Gwadar and not in rest of Pakistan?” he writes.

Devasher argues that the proposed Chinese settlement in Balochistan has dangerous implications as this would change the demography of a sparsely populated region. Speaking to ET, he said, “The BLA angst against the Chinese was aimed at the very design to alter fabric of the province where human rights records are appalling. Balochis are apprehensive that they would become minority in their homeland.”

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In a chapter on the CPEC in the book, Devasher writes that “the Baloch have been alienated by the manner in which the development of Gwadar is taking place”.

Balochistan is Pakistan’s most neglected region and its elected representatives are not taken on board while executing Chinese projects. Referring to the Baloch fight against oppression and outside interference, Devasher notes that Balochis have started defining their nationhood and have assumed greater international visibility than ever before.

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