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June 2017 Edition of Power Politics is updated.  Happy Diwali to all our subscribers and Distributors       June 2017 Edition of Power Politics is updated.   Happy Diwali to all our subscribers and Distributors       
Issue:June' 2017


Militants in Xinjiang rising

Malladi Rama Rao

In recent months, international attention has turned to Xinjiang, which is about the size of Iran, and is home to eleven million strong Turkic-speaking Uighur Muslim minority in Northwestern China.
These Sunni Muslims mostly live in the southern region of the oil and natural gas rich province that borders Magnolia, Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, besides three Central Asian Republics –namely Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. Under the banner of the Eastern Turkestan Islamic Movement, ETIM ( also known as Turkistan Islamic Party, TIP), the Uyghur Muslim militants have become a transnational threat to China from Pakistan to Afghanistan and from Middle East to Africa wherever Chinese enclaves are sprouting up with the support of Yuans.
There is a view that the Uighur militants active in Af-Pak and West Asia may pose a threat to the multibillion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the much hyped, 'One Belt - One Road', (OBOR), venture in the works These concerns notwithstanding, the headlines are China's actions that range from the very serious to outright silly in its gate-way to Central Asia.


Discrimination against the ethnic Muslims is not a new phenomenon in Communist China, which does not believe in religion. Nor is Islamophobia. It is deep rooted though. Officially engineereddemographic changes over long years came to the boil in 1997 and the area erupted in clashes in the city of Yining (Ghulja in Uighur) following the execution of 30 alleged separatists. Nearly 200 people were killed in the bloody violence that rocked Urumqi, the region's main city, in July 2009.

No Muslim names !

Since then Xinjinag has been witnessing protests and clashes as also suicide attacks, bus bombings, blasts in market places and attacks on police at regular intervals in Urumqi, Hotan, Kashgar, Yining and other towns - big and small.
Every outbreak of violence has brought in its wake harsh punishments. But this experience has not prepared the locals to the latest orders. Their trust deficit visà- vis Beijing has deepened as a result.
Parents are banned from giving new-borns Muslim names such as "Mohammed" and "Jihad", said one of these orders. Two years ago, the government decreed against Muslim names like "Fatima" or "Saddam" in Hotan prefecture, a jade-trading centre along the ancient Silk Road.
"We received a notice from municipal authorities that all those born in Xinjiang cannot have overly religious names," a public security official in Urumqi, was quoted as saying in latest media dispatches from Urumqi."If your family has circumstances like this, you should change your child's name."
Failure to comply with the regulation will mean denial of hukou (household registration) document that is essential for access to welfare benefits, education, and employment.
On offer are cash rewards for terrorism tip-offs. These 'incentives' are substantial at 5 million yuan (US $ 725,000), provided, of course, the tip –off results in nabbing a known or unknown Islamist spy.
Another order has decreed that Uyghur Muslim officials should smoke in the presence of the community elders. Failure to do so invites punitive action.
The civil servants are also asked not to take part in religious activities.
Uyghur Muslim women are forbidden from wearing Islamic veils and men ordered not to grow beards - to roll back "dangerous religious fundamentalism", and to "discourage symbols of Islam".

No ramadan fast

Uighur Muslims Muslims are not allowed to fast during the Holy Islamic month of Ramadan. Restaurants are ordered to remain open throughout the month of dawn to dusk fasting.
"Food service workplaces will operate normal hours during Ramadan," said a notice posted on the website of the state Food and Drug Administration.
Government employees and children under 18 are barred from attending mosques for prayers.
Ethnic Uighur Muslims are unhappy. They are not hiding their displeasure at being denied even the status of second class citizens.
"Han (Chinese) people see us as bloodthirsty and violent. When we travel inland, they see our Muslim names on our identification cards and will not let us stay in hotels or rent apartments," a local was quoted in The Financial Times in early May. The London daily said the Uighurs have experienced an increasing number of restrictions on dress, religious practices and travel after a series of deadly Urumqi riots (in 2009).
Like the British during the Communist uprising in Malaya in the late forties, the Chinese are trying to deal with "unrest" amongst the Uighurs with repression.
Simultaneously, efforts are underway to stimulate Xinjiang's economy mostly through increased investment by state-owned firms. At home in India too, the government had adopted the same twin track approach initially when confronted with insurgency in North-eastern states like Mizoram and Nagaland in the sixties.From mid-seventies, democratic India deviated from the classic British approach that included steps to regroup hill-top tribal villages.
It opted for ways to let the local aspirations to flourish through a political process. This is what has bright peace to Mizoram, and Nagaland after long years of armed insurgency that was patronised by China and Pakistan.


The short point is that heavy handed measures never succeed in bringing about moderation. In fact, there is every danger of further radicalisation. And if this happens, as it is likely, according to Uighur advocate groups outside China, the Communist government in Beijing will find itself at new cross roads.
Well, it may be patently unwise to not acknowledge that China is facing threat from religious extremism, which borders on separatism.
It cannot afford to remain a "mute bystander" and allow the Uyghur violence "to surge, and hit the streets." More so as a propaganda video from ISIS shows Uighur fighters in Iraq denouncing the Chinese leadership as "evil, infidel lackeys".
Nearly 1,000 Uighur fighters and their family members have reportedly joined ISIS, and its rival, al-Nusra Front, Al Qaeda's Syrian affiliate. The number of Uyghur militants in Afghanistan is put at around 300-500.

Uighur patrons

Pakistan Taliban has been patronising them as a trainer and as a recruiting agency besides providing safe havens in its North Waziristan belt. Pakistan Army's Ops, Zarb-e-Azb, has spared these guests of Taliban since Taliban are good terrorists under the ISI classification.
The Uighurs in Syria are an ally of al Nusrah Front through their local branch, Turkistan Islamic Party in the Levant (TIP-L). This outfit has joined "Jaish al Fatah" –a coalition of jihadists which has been fighting against the government forces in Syria.
As pointed out at the very outset, the Uyghur Islamists are, therefore, able to target Chinese interests with much ease either on their own or with the help of allies from Somalia to Pakistan and beyond.
So much so the situation in Xinjiang demands a long term approach, an ability, nay willingness, to look beyond the nose. It is time for Beijing to read the Riot Act to Pakistan since the Uighur Islamists are targeting China from the safe havens in the land of its all-weather friend.

Hafeez Saeed and Maulana Masood Azhar To reach their home targets, the Uighurities are using Gilgit- Kashgar highway, which is being developed and expanded as a part of $ 54 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
China is not unaware of the ground reality that Pakistan is the epi-centre of terrorism. Otherwise, it would not have held the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) responsible for the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. And allowed state-run TV channel, CCTV-9, to telecast last year a documentary that highlighted the role of LeT and its masters for the mayhem.

The trajectory

Chinese investments in Pakistan are taking the trajectory that the Americans had followed blindly for years in the belief that mollycoddling the Generals and their politician friends offers manna.
Even after 9/11 the US followed the same route. It woke up only after Ops Neptune Spear smoked out Osama from his lair in Abbottabad on May 2, 2011.
The question, therefore, is: Will China call the Pakistani bluff or will it go along the beaten track for short term stakes just to needle India? There is no ready answer as yet.
One thing is clear though. There is no way that Beijing can persist with its penchant to not place Uighur militants, who have created a "terror-plague" in Xinjiang, as Xinhua reported this March, and Pakistani Islamists like Hafeez Saeed and Maulana Masood Azhar on the same page.
Terrorists are terrorists; their colour is the same. Mao's dictum that money has no colour does not apply to them even if they are driven by the ideology of ushering in a new Caliphate.