NEW DELHI:India believes America’s decision to declare the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) a terrorist group ahead of July 8-9 Taliban peace talks, blaming it for attacks on Chinese assets, may have been an attempt to appease Pakistan, whose role in Afghanistan is considered important by the Donald Trump administration.
The move is being viewed in India as a quid pro quo for ensuring Pakistan’s assistance in the peace process in Afghanistan amid withdrawal of American troops ahead of the presidential election in the US, according to people aware of the matter. Pakistan had been appealing to the US for many years to ban the BLA, portraying itself as a victim of terrorism.
Incidentally, a day after this development, minister of state for external affairs V Muraleedharan said in reply to a question in the Lok Sabha, “India has on several occasions highlighted the human rights violations in Pakistan, including at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
It has recommended to Pakistan, inter alia, to end forced conversions and marriages of minorities, including Hindu, Sikh and Christian women, and prosecute all cases; to stop targeting political dissidents and legitimate criticism in Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.” Earlier, while delivering his Independence Day speech from the Red Fort in 2016, Prime Minister Narendrs Modi had made a reference to the people of Balochistan. “Today, from the ramparts of Red Fort, I want to greet and express my thanks to some people. In the last few days, people of Balochistan, Gilgit, Pakistan-occupied Kashmir have thanked me, have expressed gratitude, and expressed good wishes for me….”
An official told ET on condition of anonymity, “The attempt by Pakistan to paint itself as a victim of terrorism is nothing but hogwash. Successive Pakistani governments have appealed to the US to ban BLA by referring to it as a terrorist group. Pakistan Army and ISI have been playing this game for two decades.”
Tilak Devasher, member of India’s National Security Advisory Board and formerly with the Cabinet Secretariat, told ET, “The decision of the US to designate the BLA as a global terrorist organisation at this stage is indeed surprising. After all, the BLA is supposed to have been in existence for over a decade and a half.” Devasher further said, “Quite possibly, three attacks by the BLA on Chinese interests in Pakistan in August 2018, November 2018 and May 2019 may have been the motivating factors.
However, more likely is the fact that Pakistan PM Imran Khan is slated to embark on a five-day visit to the US from July 20 during which a meeting is scheduled with President Donald Trump. The designation could be a sweetener ahead of the visit to get Pakistan to prevail on the Taliban enabling the US exit from Afghanistan.”