On Wednesday, Lt Gen Nasser Khan Janjua (retd), former National Security Advisor (NSA), highlighted Balochistan’s geographical position for connectivity through the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ with Afghanistan, Central Asia, Russia, and beyond.
Speaking as a guest speaker at the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad (ISSI), the former NSA pointed out that Pakistan seeks connectivity with Afghanistan, Central Asia and ultimately Russia, and in this, through its geographical position and abundance of natural resources, Balochistan plays a crucial role.
He was of the opinion that the strategic importance of Pakistan lies in Balochistan, and it can only be accomplished by peace and prosperity in Balochistan.
“The future of the world lies in the Afro-Eurasian region that begins in Balochistan, and with the Belt and Road Initiative its significance has multiplied,” he said.
An overview of the changing international geo-strategic climate and the importance of Pakistan was given by Lt Gen Janjua (retd).
He said Balochistan is gifted in terms of its geostrategic location as well as being a natural resource centre that could be a catalyst for the entire area if completely utilised.
He lamented that these unique qualities have made Balochistan a priority for Pakistan’s adversaries since the inception of the state of Pakistan, and have thus been destabilised by internal and external elements.
“Yet, people’s concerns are genuine and they need to be addressed,” he said.
He shared opinions on hard-earned peace based on his experience as Commander Southern Command and said that in a state, it’s all about people.
You are victorious if people are with you. Similarly, the emphasis should be on national integration, as tangible and real change in the situation of Balochistan can only be accomplished not by imposing power, but by regulating the people’s hearts and minds,’ he added. He said that the negative “sub-nationalism” in the province is the root cause of the insurgency.
He added that an integrated and people-centered civil-military strategy was developed that helped transform Balochistan from “flag burning to flag raising.”
With regard to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), he said that the ongoing conflict in Balochistan needs political closure, opening up new possibilities for the citizens of the province.
“The Federation and other provinces need to address the concerns of the people of Balochistan about their access to natural resources and land for the CPEC’s success in Balochistan,” he said, adding that the emphasis in Gwadar should be on job development and providing every citizen with an economic opportunity.
“To the question of fighting an insurgency in Balochistan by force, he said, “Never is it enough to hate your enemy; much more must be done.
In response to another question about the port of Gwadar, he claimed that the port of Gwadar is an ideal port for all of Asia, and that Pakistan can contribute to the world through this port.
Dr Talat Shabbir, Director of the China-Pakistan Study Centre, ISSI, said that as Gwadar is vital to the multi-billion-dollar project, Balochistan is the CPEC pivot. He said that Balochistan’s growth is key to the CPEC’s success and that it is committed to resolving socio-economic development, communication infrastructure, and unemployment issues.