It is the first time that a Baloch activist has formally embarked upon an international trip with the goal to meet everyone and openly seek support for a free Balochistan. Many top Indian newspapers and television channels have invited Qadri to explain the Baloch aspirations. People generally believe getting too much media attention is glamorous. It is not true about Qadri. She has indeed faced extremely tough questions during her interviews and speaking engagements. Reporters have asked why India should encourage a confrontation with Pakistan by supporting the Baloch when India’s interests rest with a peaceful and stable Pakistan. They have asked her again and again how the Baloch will fight two nuclear armed nations i.e. Pakistan and [now] China which is investing $48 billion under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). She has been probed about the viability of an independent Baloch state surrounded by Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. They have quizzed her what she thinks of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and India’s stance on Kashmir. These are in fact hard questions and one cannot offer a black and white answer. Nonetheless, such questions at least help the readers and viewers have an idea about an interviewee’s stance and vision on outstanding topics.
Qadri’s visit is a very mature political exercise regardless of its outcome. Her trip and conversations with Indian media and scholars seem to be an attempt to take the Baloch movement out of its comfort zone. She might not have the most perfect, logical or rational answer to every question she is asked. She has been extremely helpful in addressing fundamental myths about the Baloch movement (such as the difference between Baloch nationalists and Islamic extremists or the status of religious minorities in the Baloch society). She has informed many educated Indians, who probably do not support the Baloch freedom movement but still get mad on hearing about senseless violence against Baloch civilians.
This trip is important for the Baloch leaders to understand how others objectively analyze their movement. The more the Baloch leaders and activists interact with the international community, the more they will be exposed to practical questions. One issue that has kept the Baloch movement from going forward has been the lack of internal debate and disagreements. Many times, people who question the authority figures in the nationalist movement or challenge certain strategies are immediately silenced by being billed as “Pakistani agents”. This must stop. Debates and dissent are like oxygen for any progressive political movement. No one should be afraid of dissent.
In order to know what the world leaders are thinking about the Baloch aspirations, it is very important for the Baloch not only to put their perspectives out there and immediately ask for international support. They must master the art of listening to other people’s points of view, reservations and national interests. For instance, they must listen to the Indians why they are reluctant to support the Baloch and then respond to their reservations with logic and proper arguments. Most countries do not devise their foreign policy merely based on emotions. They keep their national interest supreme. They Baloch have yet to incentivize their movement before the rest of the world.
The Pakistani right-wing media has been alarmed by Qadri’s visit to India. One is not sure whether it is a coincidence that Qadri is visiting India at a time when the Pakistani authorities had claimed only a few weeks ago to have arrested Kulbhushan Yadhav, an alleged spy from the Indian intelligence service, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). Had the India-Pakistan tensions not erupted because of the arrest of Mr. Yadhav, the Indian media and intelligentsia would probably not pay much attention to Qadri’s trip. This is indeed a great timing for her to get attention in India.
While the Pakistanis are outraged over the visit of the Baloch activist to India and her public call to the Indian government to support a free Balochistan, Qadri must, ironically, be appalled over the complete absence of Indian support for the Baloch movement. No matter what the Pakistani government says, there is no evidence that the Indian government officially supports the Baloch liberation movement. The arrest of the alleged Indian spy was a great opportunity for New Delhi to settle scores with Islamabad by manipulating the Baloch card to embarrass Pakistan. On the contrary, the Indians demonstrated tremendous restraint while dealing with the whole drama staged by the Pakistanis. Many in India believe the spy drama was not worth a rebuttal. Now, we see that episode has almost faded away. Refraining from a tit for tat approach does not exempt India from its responsibility to condemn violation of human rights in Balochistan since it is the world’s largest democracy and the biggest power in South Asia. After all, we should rightly look at democracies like the United States, the European Union and India to stand up for human rights. One does not have to be a supporter of the Baloch nationalists to have a heart to denounces human rights violations in Balochistan.
The absence of the Indian support and unending state-sponsored Pakistani propaganda against the Baloch, which aims to discredit the indigenous Baloch uprising, must be frustrating for activists like Qadri. However, the Baloch must not do whatever it takes to win the support of the Indians. As a secular people, the Baloch must be cautious in making any congratulatory or flattering remarks about Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Baloch have no history of friendship with human rights abusers. That history must be upheld. Modi is indeed a communal and divisive political figure who plays the Hindu religious card as objectionably as many Pakistanis do to justify their oppression of the Baloch. Likewise, Ms. Qadri has the right to concede India’s ownership on Kashmir but as a victim of state oppression herself, she must condemn the Indian human rights abuses committed in Kashmir or elsewhere. It is not smart on the part of the Baloch to overlook human rights abusers in one part of the world only because these folks could someday become “our allies”.
Qadri’s trip to India clearly reflects more maturity in the Baloch movement. There seems greater realization about face-to-face dialogue with people whose support the Baloch will need in their movement. Diplomacy and civic engagement are extremely powerful tools. The Baloch have made very little use of these weapons in the past one decade and Qadri has shown her comrades the right thing to do. Whether she succeeds or fails, it doesn’t matter. Who has ever succeeded in their first endeavor? Not many. Probably, no one (if they were seeking a free country).