The Big Picture- Asylum To Baloch Leader: Should It Be Granted?
As the tension between India and Pakistan rises after the attacks on Uri army base, recently there was an interesting development. Following the recent decision of the Indian Government to highlight the issues of Balochistan, the Baloch leaders have started looking for support from India. Indian Prime Minister in his Independence Day speech highlighted the issue of human rights violation in these parts of the world. In the light of this, Baloch leader in exile in Geneva approached the Indian embassy there seeking asylum in India.
There is a great degree of consensus in Pakistan and in other parts of the world that the policy of Pakistan towards Balochistan has been a failure. Placed in these circumstances, the policy that India has adopted with respect to Tibet, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka has been one of self-restraint. Pakistan violated the 1947 Agreement and forcibly went to occupy Balochistan in which it succeeded. India if moves forward in this regard has to adopt a deliberate policy of giving justice, human rights and freedom of expression to Balochistan.
India had a practice which started with granting asylums to Parsis in pre independent era. The king of Nepal, the leaders from Afghanistan, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Tibet have also been given shelter in India in the past. At present, there are no policies or laws to approach these issues in India and therefore, in the absence of any law it essentially becomes a political decision. There was a Private Member’s Bill last year on asylum issue. The application of the Baloch leader Brahamdagh Khan Bugti deserves consideration as there is a well-founded fear of persecution.
Baloch leaders have been backed by India since 1950s covertly. This tactic has become overt now and what has made it to bring on the table is the issue of Kashmir. India’s backing of Balochistan would be akin to Pakistan’s backing of Khalistan movement in Punjab. As Pakistan didn’t have any territorial claim on Punjab, India does not have territorial claim on Balochistan historically plus this is an area which does not share border with India. This is a tactical move from India to make Pakistan more preoccupied in its internal problems and create less trouble for India in Kashmir.
Even in the case of asylum given to Dalai Lama, it was made clear that they had to fight their own struggle. Similarly, in this case as well India would help to keep the cause alive for which Baloch people and leaders are fighting. India is not going to take part in their freedom struggle. The natural ally for Baloch people in political as well as geostrategic sense is India.
The civilian character of a refugee populace is paramount. Therefore, Mr. Bugti’s activities as a Baloch leader need to be thoroughly examined. India’s approach towards the larger Baloch refugee community in the future is yet to be addressed. Does India intend to grant asylum to Mr. Bugti alone or to other Baloch asylum-seekers as well, or on a case-by-case basis. Irrespective of the modality it chooses, the Indian state will have to invest in setting up both a policy mechanism as well as the physical infrastructure for management of this group and in this regard, a uniform asylum law is necessary.