This is probably the least known and rarely spoken of conflict of the greater Middle Eastern and South Asian regions, directly affecting countries such as Pakistan, Iran and even Afghanistan. Balochistan is an area that straddles the Pakistani-Iranian border and part of southern Afghanistan, the tribal inhabitants of which had in the past fought for independence, particularly in Pakistan, thus jeopardizing the territorial integrity of both Iran and Pakistan. The two main Balochi tribes in Pakistan, the Bugti and the Marri, often also fought with each other, but in the mid-2000s, thanks to Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s heavy handedness, they ended their feuding and formed a combined front to advance their demands. The Balochis are numbering some 6.5 million in Pakistan and some 2 million in Iran. They are not populous but they happen to inhabit areas that are rich in gas and located around the strategic port of Gwadar, the terminal for a giant pipeline project that starts from Turkmenistan’s Chardzou or Charjew (now Tu¨rkmenabat) and then crosses through Afghanistan’s city of Herat. Another pipeline is projected to cross Pakistan, connecting Iran and India. Building on this venture, India’s Oil Minister in 2005, Mani Sankar Aiyar, used to outline his dreams of a pan-Asian gas grid. The People’s Republic of China is also very keen on participating in these projects and loaned Pakistan US $200 million, sending Chinese engineers to develop Gwadar’s port, hoping to halve the distance to Xinjiang, the westernmost province of China, where the nearest oil importing port is otherwise over 2,000 miles distant. Balochi complaints include: lack of democracy and of investment in their region; deliberate efforts on the part of central government to alter the demographic balance in Balochistan; and unfair distribution of revenue coming from oil and gas projects. Just like the Kurds in Iraq, Balochi nationalists are basically coveting energy revenues out of which they could fund their own state. Pakistani Balochistan produces more than 45% of Pakistan’s total gas output. The gas field is in an area called Sui, which is basically an estate of the Bugti (perhaps the most powerful of the Balochi tribesMarri tribesmen dominated the independence movement of the 1970s, which the Government crushed with a great deal of bloodshed). Balochi guerrillas are targeting gas pipelines, power stations, railway bridges and gas fields. In 2005 Balochi insurgents targeted Chinese personnel in Gwadar, killing three engineers and injuring 11. Obviously, the Balochis resent outside involvement in oil and gas projects, as they feel they will be even more marginalized and deprived of any

economic, let alone political, benefit. Pakistan receives some support from Iran in its operations, but Pakistani nationalists suspect the USA of conspiring to push Balochis to secede from Pakistan in order to control the region’s oil and gas riches. Iranians, moreover, accuse the USA of inciting Balochis to secede from Pakistan in order to upset Iran’s domestic balance by incentivizing ideas for a greater Balochistan, which would of course involve the break-up of their country.

The Basques have been living in an area of some 20,000 sq km on both sides of the Spanish-French border for at least 2,000 years. About one-fifth of the Basque territory lies in France (the provinces of Benafarrao, Lapurdi and Zuberoa) and the rest in Spain (the provinces of Bizkaia, Araba, Nafarroa and Gipuzkoa). The Basques were brought into the Spanish state by the Carlist wars of 1833 and 1872, while modern Basque nationalism was born in the late 19th and early 20th century. Sabino Arana founded the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) in 1895. Under Franco’s dictatorship, the Spanish Basques were deprived of basic rights, such as the right to speak their language. Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA-Basque Homeland and Unity) was formed in 1958 by various nationalist groupings. It was basically born out of discontent with the PNV’s official policy, which ETA considered as too moderate and damaging for the cause of an independent Basque state. In the beginning ETA’s actions were bank robberies and sabotage, but 10 years after its foundation, ETA got involved in killings. ETA’s greatest achievement against Franco’s authoritarian rule was the assassination of Adm. Luis Carrero Blanco, Franco’s presumed successor. It is widely acknowledged that ETA’s resistance contributed, among other factors, to the collapse of the dictatorship in the mid-1970s. However, the transition to democracy and the new Constitution of 1978 did very little to satisfy ETA’s claims. Attacks on senior police officials and government agents continued and the state responded with the creation of counter-terrorist special units, such as the paramilitary Grupos Antiterroristas de Liberacio´n (GAL). ETA’s campaign continues to the present day, despite its popularity being very low. Its targets include army and police officers, journalists, members of the judiciary and parliamentary deputies. France has always played an ambivalent role with regard to this conflict. There were times when it offered shelter to ETA activists and times when it co-operated with the Spanish Government. Today there is a consensus among analysts of the Basque conflict, which indicates that the conflict is in a transition period, swinging between the end of a period of violence and confrontation and the start of a period of resolution. Be that as it may, it is worth noting that the Basque question in Spanish politics remains unresolved. It will remain so, as long as the Spanish state addresses the question in purely security terms and in the context of the global ‘war on terror’, following the USA’s lead after 9/11.