Baloch terror tag may be China’s deal for Azhar

New Delhi: Did China strike a deal with the US on proscribing Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) in lieu of its consent to designate Masood Azhar a global terrorist in May?

While a definite answer may not be known immediately, sources told ET that the possibility of such an understanding cannot be ruled out. The reason being that the outfit had become a big source of concern for Beijing in the execution of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which passes through Baluchistan.

BLA has carried out at least three known attacks against Chinese assets including its engineers and workers between November and April. The organization has been fighting the Pakistan government demanding for self-determination for Baloch people.

At the time of Azhar’s designation, informed sources told ET that one of the big issues for China was whether should risk rubbing JeM the wrong way given that the CPEC also passes through its strongholds in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. It eventually did not object to the designation under US threat that it would take the matter to vote where China would emerge as the only hold-out.

Two months later, sources said, it appears that China while taking the risk in PoK with Pakistan’s assurance secured a deal with the US to designate BLA, which has attacked Chinese assets and unlike JeM, is not under the influence of Pakistan Army.

The fact that the US is holding talks with the Taliban using Pakistani interlocutors to reduce American troop commitment in Afghanistan could have also been a factor. Islamabad has been carrying out a major diplomatic effort to convey the Balo-chistan struggle for self-determination as terrorist action against Pakistan, added sources.

The US State Department last Tuesday issued the terrorist designation on the BLA, following attacks on Chinese-funded BRI projects in Pakistan’s southern Balochistan province.

“BLA has carried out several terrorist attacks in the past year, including a suicide attack in August 2018 that targeted Chinese engineers in Balochistan, a November 2018 attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi, and a May 2019 attack against a luxury hotel in Gwadar, Balochistan,” said the US State Department statement, which virtually painted China as a victim of BLA attacks.

“I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a China dimension to this move,” Michael Kugelman, the deputy director of Asia programmes at the Wilson Center in Washington, told leading the Nikkei Asian Review.

Source : Economic Times

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