Dangerous Crossroads. Baluchistan ‘Glocal’ Conflict and the New Balance of Middle Asia

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

The low-intensity conflict that rages in Baluchistan is just the last recurrence of a long string, whose historical roots predates Pakistan’s birth as independent state (1947). The reasons for this conflict are different, mingling ethnic, socio-economic and political elements. Domestic factors interact with pressures exerted by powerful neighbours such as the pashtun groups from southern Afghanistan, NWFP (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) and the FATA, while a largely artificial sense of ‘common Baluchness’ links eastern Baluchistan’s instability with the situation in Iranian Sistan va Baluchestan, where Teheran’s authority is traditionally contested. Perceived economic exploitation fuels discontent, while political marginalization, coupled with a long experience of power fragmentation, nurtures a ‘nationalistic’ elite that legitimize its role by opposing central authorities, depicted as expression of other provinces’ interests. In this perspective, Baluchistan’s situation is the joint product of domestic and global elements: local, national and regional factors conjure in shaping a multi-faceted conflict. Since the Partition, these dynamics have sparked five major armed uprisings, almost one per decade between 1940s and 1970s (1948, 1958-59, 1963-69, and 1973-77) plus the 2004 insurgency. Repression has proved unable to cope with the very reasons for discontent, whose presence has fuelled – in ‘peaceful’ periods too –grievances and recurrent bursts of violence. The logics of the Cold War (until late 1980s/early 1990s) and of the ‘Global War of Terror’ (since 2001) have helped to contain instability, allowing Pakistani government to enlist powerful foreign support. However, these external forces have not been able to promote long-term stability and an agreeable balance among Baluch requests, Islamabad’s resistances and their positions. Baluchistan’s importance gradually increased after the beginning of the Western intervention in Afghanistan (2001), making the solution of its domestic problems even more complex. Baluchistan is not only Pakistan’s most turbulent region; it is also Afghanistan’s main courtyard. Through its long and porous border the transit of goods, militants and influences between the two countries is (relatively) easy. From this point of view, the end of the Taliben’s regime deeply affected the region’s geopolitical significance, as well as the relations between the internal and external dimensions of the ongoing conflict. Whether international dimensions will gain the upper hand or not is still open to speculation. Nonetheless, it seems fair to assume that the implications of the ‘glocal’ conflict affecting Baluchistan will play, in the foreseeable future, an important role in shaping the strategic landscape of Middle Asia.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationActa 2016. Local Wars - Global Impacts. 42nd International Congress of Military History, 4-9 Sep-tember 2016, Plovdiv, Bulgaria
Pages288-296
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Keywords

  • Baluchistan insurgency

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