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Are mineral resources driving German diplomatic presence in Balochistan?

Representational picture of mines (Photo: Twitter)

Germany has appointed local businessman Mir Murad Baloch as its honorary consul general for Balochistan.

The German Ambassador to Pakistan, Alfred Grannas announced the appointment of Murad Baloch as an envoy for Balochistan through a tweet. Grannas tweeted: “Mir Murad Baloch will be now our man in Balochistan”.

Murad Baloch is a businessman and social activist who was earlier the vice-president of the Quetta Chamber of Commerce and Industries. Soon after his appointment, he met with Sadiq Sanjrani, the Chairman of the Pakistani parliament and discussed possible investment opportunities between Germany and Balochistan.

The development comes on the heels of the German ambassador meeting Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Qudoos Bizenjo in January this year. The salient feature of the discussion was promoting German investment in the conflict-ridden province.

Geo-political analyst Mark Kinra told India Narrative: “Germany has been involved various socio-economic developmental projects in Balochistan for years through its development organisation GIZ. However, the German ambassador to Pakistan has ignored the dire human rights conditions in Balochistan, a concern which has been raised by the Baloch civil society in Germany repeatedly”.

Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported that Bizenjo spoke about two of the biggest foreign investments in the mineral-rich Balochistan–the Reko Diq gold and copper mining project being initiated by Canada-based Barrick Gold corporation and the development of the Gwadar Port being done by China under its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Bizenjo reportedly told Grannas that “Balochistan has a unique geographical location with a wide coastal belt, energy sources and valuable minerals”, adding that the province had created a safe and favourable environment for foreign and local investment.

The German ambassador showed interest in promoting trade relations along with assistance in human development and the health sector.

Germany has been eyeing investments in Balochistan’s vast mineral wealth. On the other hand, Pakistan has been trying hard but with partial success to bring in foreign investors into the various mining and infrastructure projects in the province.

Pakistan is on an overdrive to woo investment in its largest but scarcely inhabited province.

The biggest overseas investor – China, which had initiated the ambitious China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), has slowed down on the expensive projects after repeated attacks on its nationals by Baloch nationalists, who feel exploited by both China and Pakistan.

Pakistan has managed to sign an agreement with Barrick Gold to initiate work on the extraction of gold and copper. With the German ambassador showing keen interest in the province, it seems the European country would like to explore investments in a province which is poor, under-developed, overlooked by  the mainstream Pakistani government and under a raging nationalist insurgency.

Also read: Killing of Chinese nationals, mounting CPEC debt widens rift between Beijing and Islamabad