Balochistan: Crossroads of Another US Proxy War?
by Eric Draitser
The current unrest in Balochistan centers around forced disappearances, kidnappings, targeted killings, assassinations and terrorism. However, these are merely the tactics of a much broader, more geopolitically complex war in which the United States and its Western allies are engaged. Though seemingly insignificant against the backdrop of all the regional and international crises affecting our world, Balochistan is, in fact, a nexus: the point at which diametrically opposing strategic interests converge.
The United States views Balochistan, an area that encompasses western Pakistan, eastern Iran, and a piece of southern Afghanistan, as critical to the maintenance of US hegemony in the Middle East and Central and South Asia. Conversely, China regards the region as necessary for its own economic and political evolution into a world superpower. Seen in this way, Balochistan becomes central to the development of geopolitical power in the 21st Century.
Balochistan’s Strategic Location
Balochistan is located in one of the most geographically and politically significant places anywhere in the world. Not only does the region sit astride three countries which have become central to Western political and military power projection, it is also central to the development and export of energy from Central Asia, access to the Indian Ocean, and a host of other geopolitical imperatives for both the West and the SCO/BRICS countries. Because of this, the region has grown exponentially in importance to all the major powers of the world.
Though the land seems, on the surface, to be inhospitable, it also holds great wealth just beneath the soil. Aside from what is believed to be a large quantity of natural gas and/or oil, the earth under the feet of the Baloch people holds vast quantities of minerals necessary for economic development. Because of this, the conflict raging in the region takes on the added dimension of being a resource war, on top of a geographical and political one.
Balochistan’s location has another crucial element that makes it geopolitically necessary: it sits at the crossroads of the most important trade routes between West and East. Although, in the public mind, trade crossroads seem to be a thing of the past (one might imagine the Silk Road being traveled by camel), in fact, they are essential to development. Land-based trade, something the Chinese understand to be a linchpin of their economic and political evolution into a superpower, is impossible without a stable and dependable Balochistan, and this is precisely what the United States and the West seeks to prevent.
This focus on land-based access to trade should always be seen in the context of energy. China’s insatiable thirst for oil and gas makes the development of pipelines from Central Asia, Iran, and elsewhere invaluable to them. The Iran-Pakistan pipeline, the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline, and other projects all serve to increase the importance of Balochistan in the eyes of the Chinese. Additionally, the Chinese-funded, Pakistani Gwadar Port is the access point for Chinese commercial shipping to the Indian Ocean and on to Africa. With all of this as a backdrop, one can begin to see just why Balochistan is so significant to the Chinese and, conversely, why the United States and its Western puppets seek to destabilize it.
Western Subversion and Destabilization
The Western imperialist powers have an obvious interest in preventing a stable Balochistan from emerging. Not only is the region essential to the Chinese, it is also a major part of the covert war being waged against both Iran and Pakistan. Terrorist groups with direct and indirect links to Western intelligence agencies operate with impunity in Balochistan, a vast area that is nearly impossible to police. The Pakistani government is not oblivious to the fact that foreign intelligence agencies are behind much of the violence in Balochistan, a fact that was even stated publicly by former President Musharraf. In fact, Islamabad, though they cannot state it publicly, is aware that its survival rests on the ability to quell the unrest in Balochistan, which in turn means they must effectively combat the foreign-controlled separatism.
In an article published by the Qatari English-language newspaper The Peninsula, the author cited credible sources as saying that “the CIA is indulging in heavy recruitment of local people as agents (each being paid $500 a month)”. Additionally we know that the CIA, under the leadership of Gen. Petraeus, has been using Afghan refugees to destabilize Balochistan. The significance of these revelations should not be understated. The fact that the CIA is recruiting agents and informants throughout Balochistan indicates that the US strategy of subversion is multi-faceted. On the one hand, a network of agents allows for intelligence and information manipulation while, on the other hand, the United States engages in terrorism through a variety of terrorist groups it controls or manipulates either directly or indirectly. As was reported in Foreign Policy magazine, the CIA and Mossad compete to control Jundallah, an important fact because it shows the way in which the Western imperialists use Balochistan, the base of Jundallah, to wage covert war on Iran, including the assassination of scientists, terrorist bombings aimed at critical infrastructure, and targeted killings of ethnic minorities.
Aside from Jundallah, the CIA and its counterparts (MI6, Mossad, and India’s RAW) are actively engaged in the handling and manipulation of a variety of other terror groups operating in Balochistan. The Baloch Liberation Army, headed by Brahamdagh Bugti and others, has long-standing ties with British MI6 going all the way back to the early days of Pakistan’s independence. This group is responsible for countless terrorist actions in the region, all of which have been aimed at innocent civilians. This, and other groups like it, illustrates the way in which the United States and its allies use the weapon of terrorism to create chaos for the purpose of destabilizing Balochistan, thereby preventing economic development both for the Balochi people and, by extension, China.
The tactics of subversion are not limited to terrorism and espionage in Balochistan. One of the most critical dimensions of this issue is the use of political destabilization through the US Congress. Lawmakers such as Representative Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA), who himself has led the anti-Pakistan charge, have argued vigorously for the “right of self-determination of the people of Balochistan”. Of course, what he means by this is that he, and others who have a vested interest in the issue, support separatism and the destruction of modern Pakistan. In so doing, Rohrbacher and other members of the Congress act, as they always do, as apologists and facilitators of the US imperial strategy of dividing nations in order to control them. Rohrbacher, who himself has long-standing ties to Al-Qaeda (former mujahideen) fighters, is a vociferous proponent of a fiercely anti-Pakistan agenda, one which treats that nation as a threat to the United States. Naturally, the only threat Pakistan truly poses is that, in the course of the development of China, Pakistan has chosen to be on the side of economic development, rather than allow itself to be perpetually subjugated to the will of the United States.
The resolution introduced by Rohrbacher, who is the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, called for the US to support Baloch separatism and end relations with the democratically elected government in Islamabad. He has repeatedly issued threats and other provocations which have been correctly interpreted by the Pakistani government as meddling in their internal affairs. The goal of these resolutions and provocations has been to make the case, both politically and in the court of public opinion, that Pakistan is a terrorist state which, because of the twisted logic of the American people, means that the US should be able to do whatever it wants to them.
The goals of the Western imperialists vis-à-vis Balochistan have been, and remain, very simple: destabilize the region in order to block the Chinese from using it to assert their regional dominance and continue on the path to economic development. Using the same, tired tactics of terrorism and political subversion, they hope to achieve these aims. However, unlike the case of the British imperialist ruling class of a century ago, the United States must contend with a Pakistan that maintains a strong current of nationalism, one that rejects the hegemony of the United States in the region, and one that has friends internationally. Unfortunately for the Baloch people, the US ruling class has learned nothing from history and continues to use them as pawns against their perceived enemy in Beijing. Without a strong, nationalist government in Islamabad, one that is willing to do more than just protest US actions, there will be no peace in Balochistan. Instead, the situation will only deteriorate as the US elites continue their drive for dominance in the 21st Century, whatever the human and financial cost may be.