Farooq Hameed Khan While recently announcing plans to open the new US Consulate in Quetta, US Ambassador Anne Patterson had stated: The Consulate would be set up to monitor the development activities being carried out by the US in Balochistanalso ensure a close liaison between the Baloch people and the US, and would provide visa facility to the people of Balochistan. But the questions are: Why does the US need to get closer to the Baloch people? Is there some hidden American agenda behind setting up a Consulate in Balochistan? Why has the thought of issuing visas to the Baloch come up after 63 years? Will increased US presence in Balochistan mean enhanced support, funds and weapons for various militant and separatist groups? Or is there a plan to destabilise Iran from the Baloch soil? The Consulate is likely to further destabilise the province as it would most likely accelerate the notorious Xes covert role inside Balochistan, fan the feelings of hatred among different ethnic communities and stren-gthen separatist views. Moreover, the combination of US Consulate in Quetta with a string of Indian Consulates that operate across Balochistans border, in Afghanistan, would mean adding fuel to the already raging insurgency in Pakistans largest province. At the same time, Baloc-histans Chief Minister, while recently commenting on the strategic location of Baloc-histan, stated that he would neither allow Balochistan to become a part of the 'Great Game, nor will its resources be permitted to be exploited without taking the local people on board. His remark that international forces and powers were involved in creating law and order problems in Balochistan in the wake of their vested interests, nevertheless, reinforces our fears that something really grave is happening in the province. In this context, Wayne Madsen a Washington-based investigative journalist made shocking revelations in his article, Pakistan: Blackwater/Xe Hits in Quetta, dated September 13, 2010. He stated that Xe Services operating in Pakistans major cities had been conducting false-flag terrorist attacks that were later blamed on the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan. Wayne reveals that the responsibility for the recent bomb attack on the pro-Palestine Shia rally in Quetta that killed 54 people was claimed by the Pakistan Taliban, though it was actually carried out by one of the Xes covert cells in the country, acting in concert with the CIA, Mossad and RAW. The bombing during the Ashura procession in Karachi last month was also the result of such covert operations. The pattern of violence in Balochistan, including systematic target killing of Punjabi settlers, and Baloch citizens, who are seemingly coordinated by foreign intelligence agencies with the local militant groups, aims to drive a wedge between Islamabad and Baloch nationalists by trumpeting charges against Pakistans security apparatus. Meanwhile, it is the Chinas presence in Gwadar that is a nightmare scenario for both Washington and New Delhi. Built with Chinas $250 million investment and technical assistance, Gwadar is planned to serve as a major energy hub for storage and transhipment of oil and gas to and from the Central Asian states as well as China. Gwadar could also be ideal port of call for the Chinese navy that is already displaying its flag in the Arabian and Red seas. In this backdrop, the latest Pakistani move to hand over Gwadar port to China for operation and further infrastructure development could intensify Indo-US sponsored instability in Balochistan. It may be recalled that the first bullet was fired on security forces in 2002, when the Chinese commenced work on the port. By 2005, the insurgency was in full swing when the first phase of the port was completed. The US opposition to the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline assumes importance when viewed in the context of its plans to not only isolate the Iranians, but also prevent the frequently discussed option in continuing the pipeline to China, through the north-south energy corridor linking Gwadar with Xiankiang. This energy corridor which includes the proposed Kara-koram railway link will provide the shortest and fastest route from the oil rich Gulf to meet Chinas growing energy needs. Pakistan and Chinas economic interests, too, converge in the north-south corridor. So, the Indo-US nexus would endeavour to keep Balochistan red hot, so that the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project is sabotaged, while other projects are also denied to Pakistan and indirectly to the China. The Balochistan clock is ticking fast. Serious decision making on an emergent basis is required to sincerely redress the Baloch grievances on priority, so that they are not exploited by the great game players. As a first confidence building step, a general amnesty may be declared for all the Balochs fighting against the state and political dialogue be initiated with their exiled leaders. The Baloch pride and self-respect should be restored and economic conditions improved by implementing the special Aghaz-Haqooq-e-Balochistan package as a matter of national priority. Like the Karzai regimes decision to ban private foreign security contractors in Afghanistan, the Pakistani government must also expel all such aliens from its soil. If US/NATO helicopter strikes into FATA were meant to gauge the Pakistani response, Baloc-histan may soon be the nations ultimate test. Pakistan has resolved that it will not allow the red line to be crossed. The writer is a retired brigadier Email: fhkhan54 @gmail.com