‘Pakistan needs to get to bottom of India’s interference in Balochistan’

Islamabad, April 2 (IANS) Pakistan needs to “get to the bottom of India’s interference in Balochistan”, but in doing so Islamabad needs to “tread carefully” and diplomatically engage with Iran, a friend of India, in the effort to “expose” the “RAW network based in Chabahar”, a Pakistani daily has said.

In an editorial, titled “Shaky Ground”, The News International said that the “capture of the Indian spy Kulbhushan Yadav may affect not only our relationship with India but with Iran too”.

The arrest of Yadav coincided with the visit of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to Pakistan, and army chief Raheel Sharif brought up the “RAW issue” (Research and Analysis Wing – India’s external intelligence agency) with Rouhani, “only for the Iranian President to deny it”, writes the daily.

It went on to say: “Now we have found that the spy had a valid Iranian visa and we believe there is an entire RAW network based in Chabahar. We have asked for Iranian help in dismantling it. Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan met the Iranian ambassador in Islamabad to discuss these issues on Friday.”

“..Tensions between Islamabad and Tehran have deepened. These tensions, based on both sectarian and ethnic factors, have existed for a long time and are centered primarily around Balochistan, a territory that is also claimed by some groups based in the adjacent Iranian province”.

The daily says that Pakistan’s “closeness to Saudi Arabia has always been viewed with suspicion by Iran and that suspicion has only multiplied with Iran and Saudi Arabia locked in proxy wars for regional supremacy”, and cited the killings of Pakistani Shias by Sunni militant groups.

“We also know for a fact there has been Iranian involvement in Balochistan for many years. The matter has come up again and again and involved Baloch separatists on both sides of the border. The latest spying issue has brought it out into the open on the diplomatic platform,” it says.

Tehran has been unhappy with Islamabad’s refusal to pay for its portion of the Iran gas pipeline “under US pressure, though the Rouhani visit did help make progress on the pipeline”.

“With most of these issues still unresolved our request to look into RAW activities in Iran may not be welcomed, especially since Iran and India have their own close ties. That said, on this particular issue, the ball is now in Iran’s court and it cannot be volleyed back,” the daily says.

For Pakistan good ties with Iran are important as a gas pipeline that would bring in much-needed energy resources to fuel-starved Pakistan is nearing completion.

“Given this it will now need to tread carefully to achieve the right balance. On the one hand it must maintain a relationship with Iran while also negotiating its traditionally shaky relations with India. We need to get to the bottom of India’s interference in Balochistan, but in doing so we have to be careful not to ruin important relationships with our neighbours,” it says.

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