More changes to the map of Asia on the way?
Following on from my lengthy ramble about the prospect of Iraq breaking up the other week, there's another West Asian state that could be on the verge of some serious trouble: Pakistan.
I like to think I have a fairly good knowledge of secessionist movements and the like, but was unaware of quite how serious the Baloch independence movement in Pakistan is. Le Monde Diplo has the details, in English.
It refers to 'a slow-motion genocide being inflicted on Baluch tribesmen' and notes 'Already, in neighboring Sindh, separatists who share Baluch opposition to the Punjabi-dominated military regime of General Pervez Musharraf are reviving their long-simmering movement for a sovereign Sindhi state, or a Sindhi-Baluch federation, that would stretch along the Arabian Sea from Iran in the west to the Indian border. Many Sindhi leaders openly express their hope that instability in Pakistan will tempt India to help them, militarily and economically, to secede from Pakistan as Bangladesh did with Indian help in 1971'.
India was not exactly grief stricken when Bangladesh sheared off from Pakistan, and as the regional superpower with 'issues' with Pakistan over Kashmir and quite what its neighbour is up to vis a vis India's Muslims, I imagine New Delhi would be quite happy to see Pakistan broken up. Although getting hold of weaponry in this particular part of the world is not exactly difficult, defeating Islamabad is a pretty big ask - it has F16s, helicopter gunships etc, and Balochs amount to less than 4% of the population. I suspect one of the reasons why Musharraf is cosying up to Washington is that this way not too many questions will be asked about how it is dealing with the Baloch insurgency. Also, if he stops playing ball or the Madrassa Boys take over in Islamabad, there would be distinct advantages for many in encouraging Baloch separatism - together with the Sindhis (no sniggering at the back) - they would control the coast and most of the country's natural resources. On the downside for Washington, the Baloch look to be fairly conservative on the Islamic interpretation front - the hijab is de rigeur.
At the very least worth keeping an eye on, I reckon.