In Balochistan, a larger, triangle that affords a kind of cushion for the first triangle is formed by Naushki, Wana (in NWFP) and Kashmore. Actually, landscape of Balochistan is such that it offers scores of safe havens, inaccessible to outsiders. Starting from the coastline, there are Makran Coastal Range, Siahan Range, Ras Koh, Sultan Koh and Chagai Hills that are cutting the land in east-west direction. In the north-south direction, we find Suleman Range, Kithara Range, Palma Range and Central Ravi Range to complete the task of forming deep and inaccessible pockets. Few direct routes are possible between the coastline and upper Balochistan. Only two roads connect Balochistan with the rest of the country. Apart from the triangles of instability that we have mentioned there is an arc – a wide, slowly curving corridor – of extensive activity. It is difficult to make out as to who is doing what in that corridor!
ANOTHER LARGER TRIANGLE—CUSHION TO THE FIRST TRIANGLE
by Tariq Saeedi in Ashgabat, Sergi Pyatakov in Moscow, Ali Nasimzadeh in Zahidan, Qasim Jan in Kandahar and SM Kasi in Quetta
There is another, larger, triangle that affords a kind of cushion for the first triangle. It is formed by Naushki, Wana (in NWFP) and Kashmore. Actually, landscape of Balochistan is such that it offers scores of safe havens, inaccessible to outsiders.
Starting from the coastline, there are Makran Coastal Range, Siahan Range, Ras Koh, Sultan Koh and Chagai Hills that are cutting the land in east-west direction. In the north-south direction, we find Suleman Range, Kithara Range, Palma Range and Central Ravi Range to complete the task of forming deep and inaccessible pockets. Few direct routes are possible between the coastline and upper Balochistan. Only two roads connect Balochistan with the rest of the country.
Apart from the triangles of instability that we have mentioned there is an arc – a wide, slowly curving corridor – of extensive activity. It is difficult to make out as to who is doing what in that corridor.
IN DALBANDIN & NAUSHKI, PRESENCE OF FOREIGN AGENTS IS A MATTER OF ROUTINE
Here is how to draw this arc-corridor on the map: Mark the little Afghan towns of Shah Ismail and Ziarat Sultan Avais Qarni on the map. Then mark the towns of Jalq and Kuhak in Iran. Now, draw a slowly arching curve to connect Shah Ismail with Kuhak and another curve to connect Ziarat Sultan Avais Qarni with Jalq. The corridor formed by these two curves is the scene of a lot of diverse activities and we have been able to gather only some superficial knowledge about it. The towns of Dalbandin and Naushki where foreign presence has become a matter of routine are located within this corridor.
Different entities are making different uses of this corridor. Despite employing some local help, we could find very little about the kind of activity that is bubbling in this corridor.
We found that the Indian consulate in Zahidan, Iran, has hired a house off Khayaban Danishgah, near Hotel Amin in Zahidan. This house is used for accommodating some people who cross over from Afghanistan to Pakistan and from Pakistan to Iran through the arched corridor we have described. But who are those people and what are they doing, we could not find.
We also found that although Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guards), the trusted force directly under the control of Khamnei, are monitoring Zahidan-Taftan road, there is no regular check post of Pasdaran on the road between Khash and Jalq, making it easy for all kinds of elements to cross here and there easily.
We also found that the border between Afghanistan and Iran is mostly under the control of Pasdaran who come down hard on any illegal border movement and that is why the arched corridor passing through Pakistan is the favorite route for any individuals and groups including American ‘defence contractors’ and their Afghan collaborators who may have the need to go across or near the border of Iran. Not surprisingly, part of this corridor is used by Iranians themselves when they feel the need to stir some excitement in Pakistan.
Iranians also use the regular road of Zahidan-Quetta when they can find someone with legal documents as was the case with an Iranian who has business interests both in Pakistan and Iran and who came to Quetta just before the start of 7 Jan trouble. He has not been heard of since then.
There is a coastal connection that also provides free access for elements in Dubai and Oman to connect with militants in Balochistan. This is a loosely defined route but there are three main landing points in Balochistan: Eastern lip of Gwater Bay that lies in the Iranian territory but affords easy crossover to Pakistan through unguarded land border; 2. Open space between Bomra and Khor Kalmat; and 3. Eastern-most shoulder of Gwadar East Bay.
Some Indians, a curious mix of businessmen and crime mafia, came in fishing boats from either Dubai or Oman and landed on the Gwater Bay in the Iranian territory before the start of 7 Jan eruptions. From there they traveled to Khuzdar and then Quetta where they met with some Baloch militants. It is rumored in those areas that the Indians came with heavy amounts of cash but there was no way of verifying it. They were escorted both ways by some Sarawani Baloch who run their own fishing vessels.
Simultaneously, there were reports from our Washington correspondent that some ‘sources’ in Pentagon had been trying to ‘leak’ the story to the media that Americans and Israelis were carrying joint reccee operations inside Iran and for that purpose they were using Pakistani soil as launching point. The lead was finally picked and disseminated by Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker.
However, from our own observations in the area we could not confirm this report although there is a possibility that the curving corridor that we have identified may have been used by the Americans and Israelis to travel from Afghanistan into Pakistan and then into Iran and back for this purpose although this is mere speculation, based on the movement of foreigners in this area, and we can neither confirm nor deny the substance of this report.
Also, there was some buzz, as reported by our correspondent in New Delhi, that some high circles were questioning the wisdom of two-faced policy of engaging Islamabad in peace dialogue while at the same time supporting insurgent activity in Balochistan. It was also not clear as to why Iran would be interested in stirring trouble in Balochistan when it was faced by an imminent war from the American side and it needed all the allies it could muster on its side and one of those allies could possibly be Pakistan.
It was also difficult to reconcile Iranian involvement in Balochistan with the fact that Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, that is a crucial project for Iran, was in the final stages of negotiation and there seemed no logical point in sending mixed signals by creating difficulties in Balochistan.
MISHA & SASHA [PSEUDONYMS] THE FORMER KGB AGENTS ONCE ACTIVE IN BALOCHISTAN SPEAK
These were some of the questions that we took to Misha and Sasha and here is the explanation they gave. Their answers came in bits and pieces but we have reconstructed their replies in the form of one coherent interview:
Question: What was the purpose of Russian invasion of Afghanistan?
Misha: The Soviet Union was not in love with Afghanistan itself and by now everyone must have understood it. We, or at least our leaders, wanted a convenient corridor to the warm waters of the Indian Ocean — the idea was to first establish full control in Kabul and from there to raise the double-bogey of Pakhtunistan and Greater Balochistan and try to detach at least a part of Balochistan from Pakistan and to either merge it as a new province of Afghanistan or to create a new country that should be under the firm control of Moscow. That would have solved most of the problems facing Kremlin.
Question: When you helped create BLA back in the 1980’s, what objectives did you have in mind?
Sasha and Misha: It was simply an instrument to create problems in Pakistan. There were no ideological reasons – it was merely a pragmatic solution for a strategic problem.
Question: Who could have revived BLA after so many years of inactivity?
Misha: Most likely, Pentagon. With a good lot of support from Kremlin. You should keep in mind that reviving such an organization is a tricky task and it needs active support from a number of players. Pentagon and Kremlin would not be able to do much without some help from RAW that has hundreds of active contacts all over Balochistan. Russia could have helped negotiate the involvement of Balach Marri in the project.
Sasha: RAW must have jumped at the chance because last July the ‘discretionary grants’ budget [a euphemism for espionage fund] was increased by 700% in the Indian consulates in Kandahar, Jalalabad and Zahidan.
Misha: Yes, discretionary grants are not subject to central audit and the station chief can do what he wants with it.
Sasha: Balach possibly came to head the revived BLA through Russian facilitation but you cannot say the same for Sardar Ataullah Mengal. He returned from his self imposed exile in London and established his headquarters in Kohlu. Was it a mere coincidence? I don’t think so. In all probability, he is the American man to keep a check on Balach because Americans can never fully trust Russians.
Question: From your comments it appears that Balach and Mengal are heading the resurrected BLA and the BLA has been revived by the Americans and Russians to create trouble in Balochistan but could you give us any coherent reasons for going to such great lengths for disturbing Pakistan that is supposed to be a frontline ally of the United States on its war against terrorism?
EXCEPT FOR BALOCHISTAN, REST OF PAKISTAN IS USELESS FOR THE AMERICANS, SAY THE FORMER KGB AGENTS
Misha and Sasha: [Misha laughed so hard that tears came to his eyes while Sasha merely kept smiling in an absentminded way] – Frontline ally? Are you kidding? Americans are using Pakistan and Pakistanis would soon find it out if they have not already. Americans don’t need that kind of allies and they have made it abundantly clear for anyone who can read their policy goals correctly. Let them deal with Iran and you would see. If there can be any desirable American ally in that region, that is Iran – Iran under a different regime, and they are working to that end. Except for Balochistan, the rest of Pakistan is useless for them.
Question: It is still not clear from your answer as to what do the Pentagon and Kremlin hope to achieve by stirring trouble in Balochistan?
Sasha: Americans have two long-term policy objectives in that region: First, create a safe and reliable route to take all the energy resources of Central Asia to the continental United States, and second, to contain China.
Misha: Balochistan offers the shortest distance between the Indian ocean and the Central Asia, that is to say, shortest distance outside of the Gulf. The moment the conditions are ripe, Americans would like to take all the oil and gas of Central Asia to Gwadar or Pasni and from there to the United States.
Question: If the Americans are interested in creating safe channel for shipping energy resources through Balochistan, why would they encourage trouble there?
Misha: That is for now. By inciting trouble, they would effectively discourage Trans-Afghan Pipeline or any other project that is intended for sending Central Asian resources to South Asia. They are not interested in strengthening the South Asian economies by allowing them to obtain sensibly priced oil and gas. They would be more interested in taking all they can to their own country and let everyone else starve if that is the choice.
Sasha: The Americans would also like to discourage China from entering into more development projects in Balochistan than it already has. By developing the port and roads in Balochistan, China is ultimately helping itself by creating a convenient conduit for commerce that would connect China concurrently with Central Asia, South Asia, and all-weather Balochistan ports. The space is limited – where China gains, America loses, and where America gains, China loses.
Source: Originally published in South Asian Tibune Cross posted at: There are no sunglasses
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