October 16th 2016 was an action packed day at BRICS Goa summit. Prime Minister Narendra Modi took his international isolation of Pakistan to greater heights. He said “In our own region, terrorism poses a grave threat to peace, security and development. Tragically, the mother ship of terrorism is a country in India’s neighborhood”. This direct reference to Pakistan made at the BRICS summit was strategically done in order to get a reply from China on their all-weather friend.
In a well anticipated move, Beijing’s position on isolation of Pakistan came quite clear. China’s foreign ministry spokesperson said “We oppose the linking of terrorism to any specific country, ethnicity or religion. This is China’s consistent position. Everyone knows that India and Pakistan are victims of terrorism.” This statement of China is intended to make the following assertions.
- China refuses to link terrorism to any specific ethnicity or religion
- Pakistan is more of a victim of terror rather than a creator, hence the isolation of Pakistan is not possible
To refute both these claims of China, we must initially try to answer the below questions.
- What is the history of Xinjiang province in China?
- Who are the Uyghur community who rise in this province?
- Why is there predominant ethnic tensions in this province?
- Why Uyghur community here is subjected to severe oppression by China in the past few decades?
Xinjiang, one of China’s largest autonomous province was initially an independent province in 1884. It borders eight countries—Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and the disputed territory of Kashmir. During the early 20th century, this province faced a lot of conflicts with the rise of warlords and military governors and finally it surrendered to the Communists of China in 1949.
The Uyghur community in Xinjiang, which consists of nearly 58% of present population, are the largest Turkic ethnic group who predominantly follow Islam. Their language, food habits, architecture and features have a distinct Turkish influence and they look different from the conventional Han Chinese. In fact it is much easier for people in Turkey to understand their language than in Xinjiang.
Ever since Xinjiang has come under the influence of territory of People’s Republic of China, the Communist Party has imposed severe restrictions among the local ethnic groups. Ethnic separatism and Religious rhetoric were the two major reasons given by Communist party for imposing religious restrictions. Police and military crackdowns have been very frequent in this province.
In fact from 2014, the Chinese government went into an overdrive by banning major Islamic practices in this province. Ramadan fasting, Islamic dress code (men and women), Islamic beard (men) were all banned for the population working with the civil government. All these practices have not only created a sense of isolation of the Uyghur community but also created frequent ethnic tensions between Uyghur and local Han Chinese communities.
One cannot completely blame China for ethnic oppression of this community, there has been certain violent rhetoric responses from this community as well. The major violence which broke out in April 1990 was aimed at the creation of a separate Uyghur state, called either Uyghuristan or Eastern Turkistan. Post that incident, there has been regular terror attacks in the state. The East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) has been held responsible for a planned attack in the US Embassy in neighboring Kyrgyzstan, post which USA has added this group to its terror watch list.
China believes that more than 1,000 Uyghurs were trained by bin Laden’s forces in Afghanistan, with approximately 110 returning to China, about 300 allegedly captured or killed by U.S. forces, and about 600 escaping to northern Pakistan. The fact worries China the most is that the Uyghur Muslim movement in Xinjiang will bring in the sympathies of International Muslims and provide a big challenge to the Chinese government in future.
The above brief history about Uyghur community and Xinjiang province, proves to us that China as a state has been frequently targeting:-
- An Islamic community called Uyghur for their involvement in terror activities
- Majority of population in Xinjiang since they are responsible for separatism
Coming back to PM Modi’s statement on calling Pakistan as the MOTHER SHIP of terror activities. PM Modi has expressed his views on how Pakistan has been breeding terrorists from outside the Indian state to create a sense of conflict among the Kashmiri youth. He has in fact not blamed the local population of Pakistan nor the Kashmiri people of India, he has directly blamed the Paksitani government actors as the perpetuator of this terror crime. China which took a stand of neutrality (not blaming terrorist due to ethnicity or religion), is in fact taking severe actions on its own population (Uyghur community) in the name of neutralization of terror activities.
One cannot hide the evident Elephant here, which is the fact that China is only trying to protect its $ 46 billion investment which is in the form of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). What the world needs to ask China is that, Is it willing to take the risk of protecting Global Terror groups just to safeguard its own investment in Pakistan? The hypocrisy of the Red Dragon is only all so evident here.