The Baloch diaspora led by the Free Balochistan Movement (FBM) began a 24-hour ‘vigil’ outside the Chinese embassy in British capital London on Thursday afternoon. The Baloch are agitating over China’s “collusion” in exploiting mineral resources from Balochistan without the consent of or regard for the local population.
The Baloch community maintaining the vigil say they will hold the round-the-clock sit-in till Friday evening at the Chinese mission on Portland Street in central London. They plan to sit all through the night for the vigil in small groups.
This is a major bid by Baloch nationalists to garner public attention and internationalise their struggle.
FBM leader Hyrbyair Marri had earlier this month criticised the Islamic nations, Pakistan and Iran for following the dictates of Communist China in exploiting local resources.
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The American withdrawal from Afghanistan stoked Chinese interest in the region. Pakistan has been instrumental in helping China access the region through trilateral meetings with other countries. One of such meetings was organised in Beijing in June between Pakistan, China and Iran to discuss the Baloch issue – which has joined the three nations over regional nationalism.
The Baloch people are angry with Pakistan for allowing China unhindered access to their warm water resources along the Makran Coast in the Arabian Sea. Chinese fishing trawlers, which are gigantic floating factories have been carrying out deep-sea fishing taking away the livelihoods of the Baloch fishermen. A Chinese port in Gwadar city has also blocked access of the Baloch people to the Arabian Sea.
Rasheed Baloch, FBM Organiser in the UK told India Narrative that China wants to create its hegemony in the region with Pakistani support by establishing its naval and military base at Gwadar and also Jiwani. He said that Islamabad and Beijing do not have Baloch support for China’s activity in Balochistan which can destabilise the region.
Shabbir Baloch, one of the FBM members said that the Chinese had once made a false complaint about the Baloch flag. He said: “The embassy here complained to British authorities that our flag belongs to one of the proscribed armed organisations. We had to persuade the police that we are peaceful protestors and the flag belongs to the Baloch nation and not to an armed group”.
This is the third protest by the organisers in the past few days to internationalise the Baloch issue. The earlier two vigils were held outside the Chinese embassy in Finland on August 12 and later on at the Chinese embassy in the Netherlands on August 16.
The protestors say that the vigil is against China’s nexus with Iran and Pakistan in exploiting natural resources of Balochistan and “committing human rights violations”. They emphasise that China is not investing but expanding itself in a bid to exert economic and military control.
Armed Baloch organisations have attacked Chinese nationals working on the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in Balochistan and Sindh – two of the most resourceful provinces in Pakistan. In a major attack this Sunday, the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) exploded an improvised explosive device (IED) and two of its gunmen attacked a convoy carrying 23 Chinese personnel in bulletproof vehicles in Gwadar.
For over two years and 2021 and 2022, the province was rocked by mass protests under the flag of Gwadar ko Haq do Tehreeq as local Baloch people, mostly women and youth, staged a sit-in at the Gwadar port for basic amenities like water, power and livelihoods. The protests were quelled in late 2022 with an embarrassed Islamabad sending boots to Gwadar and arresting the architect of the protests – Maulana Hidayatur Rehman of the Jamaat-i-Islami.
FBM plans to hold similar vigils in New York, USA, and German capital Berlin on August 18. The organisers said that they will hold another one on August 20 in Vancouver, Canada.