The government and the military establishment have long advocated a policy of reconciliation with the Baloch separatist leaders – and have touted its success despite some mixed results. The latest step by one of the more prominent leaders in exile – Brahamdagh Bugti, the grandson of Akbar Bugti – casts a pall over such statements.

On Monday, the Balochistan Republican Party (BRP) leader said he would apply for political asylum in India through the Indian embassy, it was reported by the Indian press.

Brahamdagh Bugti had been highly critical of Pakistan before – in fact his recent statements mirror the Indian stance on cross-border terrorism – but seeking asylum in India, especially at such a bitter period of time between the South Asian neighbours, is a move that will be viewed as irreversible by top brass. An exiled leader can be reconciled; one that has defected to India will be considered a traitor. If Brahamdagh Bugti chooses to exercise this option, and India chooses to grant him citizenship, then the reconciliation process would suffer a serious blow, but perhaps the greatest damage will be to Mr. Bugti himself. The Baloch movement has always had to legitimise itself against allegations that it was an Indian sponsored separatist movement, and that its demands were genuine concerns of the Baloch people. The asylum request will all but confirm that allegation; and the fallout will be felt by the whole Baloch movement.

Akbar Bugti, despite his disagreements with the federal government, was an ardent Pakistani; and is famous for influencing Balochistan’s ascension to Pakistan. It is his legacy that Brahamdagh purports to carry, and becoming a citizen of India for political reasons will alienate much of that following.

Regardless of the choice he makes, India’s subversive involvement in Balochistan is all but confirmed now, and the relations between both countries will take another dip.