In an indication that the government was serious about the Baloch cause, the Home Ministry said on Thursday that it had received Baloch leader Brahamdagh Bugti’s request for an Indian ID card and travel papers and was examining it, a senior official said.
The request was forwarded by the Ministry of External Affairs to the Home Ministry on Wednesday.
The official said that though a time frame could not be given for the request to be processed, it would be done at the earliest.
Mr. Bugti will have to undergo multiple layers of verification before he is granted the Indian ID card and travel papers, said the official. The final call will be taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself. India does not have a comprehensive asylum policy and as per the United Nations, there are at least 6,480 asylum seekers in India but the government does not recognise them.
The situation is so complex that the officials in the Home Ministry are digging through 1959 records to check the process.
The last time India allowed an asylum request was in 1959 to Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama by the Jawaharlal Nehru government.
Mr. Bugti is presently based in Switzerland and he runs his political activities from there without official authorisation from the Swiss government. He filed the request with the Permanent Mission of India in Geneva on Tuesday.
He had earlier claimed that the Swiss government, that declined his application for an official ID in January 2016 since his party is on the terror watchlist of Pakistan, is creating hurdles to his work, due to pressure from Pakistan.
Even the term ‘refugee’ is not mentioned in any domestic law. India has not signed the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention on the Status of Refugees, or its 1967 Protocol that stipulates the rights and services host states must provide refugees.
Mr. Bugti is president and founder of the Baloch Republican Party. He is the grandson of Nawab Akbar Bugti, a Baloch nationalist leader killed by the Pakistan Army in 2006. The Pakistan government had blamed India for helping Mr. Bugti flee Pakistan to Geneva in 2010 via Afghanistan.
If granted asylum, Mr. Bugti could be given a long-term visa to be renewed every year.
The other scenario is that he will get a registration certificate based on which he can travel anywhere in the world using it as a travel document, the official said.