Balochistan, the western province of Pakistan, has substantial untapped potential of energy (oil and gas) and other strategic minerals. Unfortunately it is also the poorest province of the country, due to failure of the development policies of many of the previous governments – thereby causing the consequent socio-economic hardships becoming a source of discontentment of the people of the province.
The socio-economic uplift of the people of the province is therefore the top priority of the newly elected government of Pakistan; and this time the stated strategy of the elected provincial government appears likely to successfully commence the remedial measures.
However, what is more alarming is the growing insurgency in the province, which is surely a threat of destabilization not only for Pakistan but also for the region – and also that there are sure signs, albeit not given much coverage in the foreign media, of the direct involvement of certain regional and extra-regional powers which are accentuating the public discontentment for initiating and fueling this insurgency.
This particular aspect is factually related to the geographical location of the province. In that context, it is noteworthy that Balochistan is geographically located at the possible maritime outlet in the Indian Ocean of the Eastern, Central, and Western segments of Asia; and that, the Indian Ocean has already attained marked significance in global powers’ heightened rivalry for securing and dominating its sea lanes which are now almost vital for the massive world trade and energy shipment.
The development of Gwadar Port in Balochistan and further plans to develop the necessary infrastructure including road/rail communication to connect the port with the aforementioned segments of Asia, definitely provides the potential to Balochistan of providing China, Central Asia, and Afghanistan their much needed connection to the Indian Ocean, besides serving as an international trade route, and an energy transit corridor.
It is this significance of Balochistan, of having become the ‘Geo-strategic fulcrum’ of this arena of the heightened geopolitical tussle of the regional and extra-regional powers, which is the ‘casus belli’ of the foreign involvement in igniting and further stoking insurgency in Balochistan. This very dangerous foreign-instigated emerging threat to peace and stability in the region, with global implications, therefore, deserves priority attention. Balochistan is located amid the Central, Western Southern and South-western Asia, so it can hardly escape the effects of global geopolitics.
*Umm-e-Habiba, Ph.D. Fellow at Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad, Lecturer at National University of Science and Technology.