The autonomous region of Xinjiang, in the People’s Republic of China – with a relative majority of Turkmen Muslim people (45%) and the Han Chinese who since 1949 have risen from 6% to 41% of the population – is an issue not only for China, but also a relevant geopolitical issue for Eurasia as a whole.
A total number of 22 million inhabitants, a soil rich in oil, gas and minerals, as well as strong tensions between the minority Turkmen region and the Han one – even taking the form of jihadist terrorism – and finally the spreading of Uighur terrorist actions in the rest of the Chinese territory and elsewhere.
According to reliable Chinese sources, from 1990 until 2001 the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) – the Uighurs’ military arm – carried out over 200 terrorist attacks in China and inside Xinjiang.
Its political arm, the East Turkestan Liberation Oragnization (ETLO), was founded in Turkey in 1990 to explicitly fight against the Chinese government in Xinjiang.
It is already serious that a NATO country ventures to carry out so important operations without the Alliance’s evident support – and, if NATO were still a vital structure – this fact alone would be an issue on which to assess Turkey’s presence or not in the Atlantic Alliance.
Nevertheless, why Turkey – a NATO member State and its second armed force – supports the political and military fight of the Uighur separatists?
For two main reasons: Turkey pursues its own Panturanic project stretching from Anatolia to the whole Central Asia up to Xinjiang, the point of arrival of the Turkmen ethnic colonization.
Furthermore, the Turkish regime plans to capitalize on the “small jihad” of Central Asia to play a role of “Sunni Islamic protector”, which would bring Turkey back to a sort of neo-Ottoman Empire. This is President Erdogan’s true delirium.
Does NATO probably want to follow the Macbeth-style dreams of the Turkish AKP, the Party already banned in its components by the Turkish Constitutional Court, in Central Asia? And with which forces?
It is not known to what extent these projects – widely known to all international decision-makers – are consistent with the Turkish presence within NATO, but we know that the Atlantic Alliance has not said a single word on this new Turkish strategic posture.
Is NATO probably becoming obsolete, not after the end, but after the transformation of Cold War?
However, let us revert to the Uighur issue.
The East Turkestan Liberation Organization wants to unite – against China – also the Kazakhs in Xinjiang – and, indeed, Kazakhstan has long defined this group as “terrorist organization”.
It is worth recalling that, in the most acute phase of the Taliban jihad in Afghanistan against the ISAF forces, an entire brigade made up of Uighurs only and organized by Al Qaeda, with Chechen units, operated there, while some leaders of the Uighur jihad ran – on behalf of the Bin Laden “rank and file” – even the area of the Pakistani FATAs.
Hence the Uighur Islamist-jihadist movement is now a danger also for the Russian Federation, considering the link between the East Turkestan Islamic Movement and the Chechen jihadist separatism, with many exchanges of militant-terrorists and, probably, strong financial and logistical support.
Obviously this is a danger for the stability of the People’s Republic of China, which cannot afford a jihad area in such a neuralgic position for its defense and its peaceful land and maritime expansion, as anticipated by Xi Jinping.
In the near future this will be the starting point of the jihadist guerrilla warfare – the line of the Belt and Road Initiative defined in 2013.
It is a severe danger also for India, considering the perviousness of the Islamic areas in the Central-Northern part of the Indian Federation, which cannot certainly tolerate a jihadist fire in its Koranic religion areas.
Finally it is a danger also for the United States which – owing to economic and financial reasons – cannot afford a People Republic of China with a jihad active in a strategic area for China’s economic expansion and political stability.
Do the United States probably want to destabilize the country which is still the main holder of US bonds?
Unless the United States, dominated by Turkey in Syria, do not want to accept the Turkish geopolitics also in the whole Central Asia, with a view to “surrounding China” and possibly threatening the Russian Federation from the East and from the South, as they are doing along the new borders between Europe-28 and Russia.
It would be a huge strategic suicide, albeit not unlikely considering the current ineffectiveness of the US foreign policy at global level.
Let us leave aside the European Union, which counts nothing and is blackmailed even by Turkey for the migrant issue.
Nevertheless there are significant personal cases in relation to the Uighur issue: Dolkun Isa’s is a case in point.
Dolkun was a leader of the movement of “East Turkestan” in Xinjiiang. He escaped from China in 1997 and arrived in the easy paradise of the new jihad, namely Europe, where he became German citizen in 2006.
Currently he is the Secretary of the World Uighur Congress, an international organization of exiled Uighurs which, however, operates both inside and outside Xinjiang.
This “Congress”, partially funded by the US National Endowment for Democracy, was founded mid-April in Munich, a city near the German intelligence headquarters – and currently we cannot perceive the explicit relations, which implicitly exist, between the WUC and the military groups of the jihadist insurgency in the Xinjiang.
China has issued an Interpol “red notice” against it, namely an international arrest warrant which, however, has not been followed up by Germany, the other European countries or the United States. The same holds true for Italy itself where Dolkun Isa travelled and carried out political activity, as well as covert activities to cover up the actions of the military wing of the Uighur jihadist movement.
In Italy Dolkun operated also through the Radical Party.
Moreover there is an organizational connection between the networks of the Tibet insurgency and the Uighur ones, which tend to use a distorted description of the situation in Tibet so as to justify the Chinese “repression” of the Uighurs that, in fact, regards only an anti-jihadist fight.
In 2009 Dolkun Isa was denied access to South Korea, while he succeeded in paying a visit to India on April 22, 2016, with a clear anti-Chinese goal in mind.
Briefly, the Uighur political-military network is gaining support from all the countries, which have potential regional contrasts with the People’s Republic of China.
This easily points to the Uighur network as a future tool for a series of proxy wars between China and its Asian competitors.
Why, however, does Germany openly support Dolkun Isa and the other leaders of the Uighur network present in the country?
We can think of a domestic interest, considering that the diaspora Uighurs can easily connect themselves with the very wide Turkish network traditionally present in Germany. We can also assume that Germany intends to favour the reckless and ill-advised Turkish action in the Middle East , so as to “overthrow the (so-called) tyrants” but, indeed, to reach Turkey’s hegemony over the current and future failed states in the region, up to Xinjiang.
From which every European country, regardless of its being NATO member, will be fiercely excluded.
A strongly irrational strategic choice which I believe has much to do with the Turkish blackmail through the mass of refugees of the war created by Turkey and the United States, namely the destruction of Syria, which will be followed by other “operations” to “bring democracy”.
The WUC President is Rebiya Kadeer, a rich business woman operating between China and Russia, as well as a US citizen, which shows that the United States use the Uighur “Congress” as a tool to destabilize China in the future, according to the now evident ill-fated model of the “orange revolutions”.
Is this the real US interest? We doubt it and we really hope so.
The Honorary President – now passed away – is the Turkish citizen Riza Bekin Pascià.
The WUC chief advisor is the German citizen Erkin Alptekin, the son of a Uighur leader who, when the Chinese arrived in Xinjiang, escaped to Jammu and Kashmir, as well as to Srinagar. Later he studied journalism in Istanbul and long worked for Radio Free Europe.
The vice-Presidents are Seyit Tumturk, a Turkish citizen dealing with the reception of many Uighur fugitives in Turkey, through Thailand and India, as well as Khariman Hojamberdiyev, a Kazakh autonomist leader – and it is worth recalling that over 250,000 Uighurs live in Kazakhstan, another pole of the Turkish Panturanic project.
The third vice-President is Omen Khanat, resident in the United States.
The other two vice-Presidents are Asgar Khan, another German citizen, and Semet Abia, resident in Norway.
The Secretary-General is the above mentioned Dolkun Isa. The vice-Secretaries General are the Turkish Erkin Emet, the Kazakh Abdulrashid Turdiyev and Tuyghun Abduweli, resident in Canada. Two likely Turkey’s friends.
The spokesmen are Dishad Reshit, resident in Sweden, and Alim Seytoff, who lives in the United States.
There is also a “Youth Party” linked to the WUC, which operates from the United States.
The WUC funds are manifold: in addition to the funds raised directly in Xinjiang, every year the National Endowment for International Peace grants 215.000 US dollars to the Uighur movement, over and above the funds from the German, Swedish and Norwegian governments.
Briefly there is the essential need to put an end to the WUC network outside China and, particularly, to the network of the jihadist military separatism in Xinjiang. Two networks which are closely interwoven.
This is the real interest of all global players, including the United States.
This is the reason why we propose to hold an International Conference on Xinjiang, attended by the Russian Federation, the People’s Republic of China, India, the United States and the other Central Asian countries, recognizing the Turkmen-Uighur jihad as a primary danger for their society and the strategic stability of the whole Asia.
If this did not happen, Central Asia could easily collapse and China could focus on the reaction to the Uighur jihad. Most of the land choke-points along the border between Russia and China – which is ever more important today – could take fire so as to weaken both countries. This is in nobody’s interest.
Time to play the Taiwan card
At a time when the dragon is breathing fire, India must explore alternative tactics, perhaps establishment of formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan can be a landmark step
The standoff on the Ladakh border between the Indian Army and the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) continues amid failing talks and casus belli measures being unleashed by the Chinese regime. While the union government and the armed forces make it clear that they will do whatever it takes to protect India’s sovereignty and integrity, precious little has been done on the foreign policy front. While India and its democratic allies which comprise the Quad security grouping declare their intent to form the ‘Asian NATO’, the Quad continues to suffer from indecisiveness which was pretty much evident when the Quad did not even issue a joint statement to condemn China at the foreign ministers meeting held last year, only America publicly called out China.
In such a situation, it is imperative that India explore alternate diplomatic and militaristic routes to tame the dragon.
Establishing formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan after recognizing should be vigorously pursuing by South Block. Indo-Taiwan ties date back to the early 1950s when Chiang Kai Shek, the ex Chinese president and former head of state fled to the island of Formosa following the victory of Mao Zedong in the long drawn out Chinese civil war called on Nehru to establish and further ties with Formosa, however Nehru believing that Chiang was nothing but a “peanut” decided to ignore his call, choosing instead to concentrate on building ties with People’s Republic of China (PRC).
Seven decades on, plethora of changes has taken place on the foreign affairs front, while both China and India have developed considerably both militarily and economically the dragon has surpassed elephant to become an economic powerhouse in its own might. It has now embraced aggressiveness to enforce its 5th century vision of the ‘Middle Kingdom’. In such a situation providing legitimacy to the existence of Taiwan is a necessary first step.
Paradigm shift in policy
Establishing formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan will bring about a paradigm shift vis-à-vis India’s foreign policy. It will enforce the idea that liberal democracy is the last word in the battle of ideologies as Francis Fukuyama had visualized in his landmark book ‘The End of History and the Last Man’ and that there is no alternative to human rights and liberties, not even the Chinese model of ‘authoritarian development’. It will be the boldest step that any global leader has taken, not even the mighty US which has no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan has taken this step.
Recognizing Taiwan will entail a lot of benefits for the mandarins of India’s foreign policy regime- firstly, Taiwan is a robust democracy with a booming economy, it will prove to be an alternative to China albeit in a relatively less proportion, secondly, India can bolster the legitimacy as the leader of the democratic world at a time when the democratic institutions in the US-often regarded as the cradle of democracy has been undermined.
Thirdly, India can get the support of another powerful ally in its attempt to carve out a new supply chain alliance which India-Japan-Australia formalized recently. Fourthly, recognizing Taiwan will make it clear to China that India means some serious business and if the need arises then India will not back down from sending dedicated naval and air assets in the disputed South China Sea region to enforce freedom of navigation principle in the resource rich region. Lastly, the Quad security grouping will be institutionalized which in the near future can even be extended to include new members, it will be the first time that India will be a part of any dedicated military and economic alliance which will deter the aggression of the Chinese war machine in the strategic Indian Ocean and Indo-Pacific Region.
However the recognition may invite severe ramifications for India. China will be infuriated and can choose to ratchet up tensions with India. India must be extremely careful while dealing with China as China is our second largest bilateral trade partner and a key export partner of India with regard to raw materials and goods. According to a FICCI report, India imports more than 40% of several important goods like the API (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients), television, chemicals, chips, textiles and many more.
The dragon will as a possible retaliatory measure can activate its propaganda machinery to wage psychological warfare with India. It can also activate its terror financing networks which for years remained a chronic internal security for India in the northeast of the country. China will also collaborate with its ‘iron brother’ Pakistan to try and deter India by intensifying terrorism in the Kashmir valley and elsewhere. Further, China can use its potent disinformation empire to try and peddle fake news about the credibility of India’s indigenous vaccines at a time when the light at the end of the tunnel of a pandemic stricken world has appeared.
Keeping all the dangers in mind, the Modi government must keep national interests in mind. Despite all the risks, it must work with all the like- minded countries to take own the mighty dragon responsible for unleashing a deadly virus which has wrecked havoc on humanity. For the sake of the free world, India must take the hard step which will reinforce India’s position in cementing its place as the leader of the free world.
Pro-Communism warping Hong Kong
The latest turmoil in the Covid-ridden strata of mainland China is not servile to any pandemic, however, the issue has been one of the most queer and rare kinds, enough to be classified as one of the endemic issues in the global affairs. The tension at helm is the chaos following the announcement of a “New Security Law” by the Chinese regime which is being eyed as one of the monumental events of this decade; slicing off a sliver of attention from the deadly Corona virus that continues to exponentiate around the world in its second wave and sporadic variants.
The law that set out by the Chinese lawmakers back on 22nd May 2020, threatens the liberties of subversion and sedition enjoyed by the citizens of Hong Kong under a constitution. Simplistically named “Basic Law”, it aims to tame the country scaffolded by the “One country, Two systems” framework since the power handover by the former colony to China back in 1997. This act came around amidst strained economic relations between the two superpowers of the world; China and USA, each passing the baton in the blame game of who sustains the blood-crown of the catastrophe impending on the world courtesy of the lethal virus that engulfs every periphery in each continent on the globe. The matters seem complex at sight and a glimpse to the historical timeline of how riddled the relations were could hint at how strained they could reach.
The colony, known as ‘Hong Kong’ today, had been the battle ground, figuratively, to the major competitors of the 20th century: The Great Britain and China. The British dominated the colony for more than 150 years, tracing back to the late 19th century; leasing the territory for the span to morph it into the modernised metropolis marking it as the hub we know today. In 1997, an agreement was reached via an accord, ‘The Sino-British Joint Declaration‘ between the two sides. The treaty allowed Hong Kong a semi-autonomous status, that is, relaying self-sufficiency in all the national domains except in defence and foreign affairs. The allotted autonomy arches under the sovereignty of China until year 2047, henceforward melding into the mainland China as harkened by the Chinese hegemony over decades.
Despite of the granted protection of Hong Kong’s own legislation, borders and freedom of speech, the liberties have been trampled on by the Chinese government over the last couple of decades. A similar law abolishing the right to sedition was initiated in 2003 yet mass protests calling out up and about 50,000 citizens impeded the efforts that went futile and drastically ended up being shunned for good. The Communist party under the wings of Chinese president Xi Jinping have expounded further in tightening their talons on the city since 2012 as efforts were made to corrode the educational system of the country via meddling with the curriculum, biasing the foundation to hail Chinese communism. These acts were proactive reactions to the advances of the United States forging relations with the city. China even tried to manipulate the elections in 2014, tampering with the selection their Chief Executive leading to a 3-month long protest known as the ‘Umbrella movement’ and ultimate downfall of Hong Kong’s autonomous political system.
The security law falls in tandem to the events of 2019; the legislation allowing the convicts from Hong Kong to be extradited in China causing a rave of fear of a massive tactical crackdown of the Anti-communist activists of Hong Kong, sighting it just as ruse to underwhelm the right of sedition of the people of Hong Kong. The Law passed by the parliament notions to only one thing; The ultimate end to Hong Kong. The lawmakers in China, hailing from the National People’s Congress (NPC), sight this move as extricating a threat to the national security and stability of the country while many of the pro-activists in Hong Kong deem the law as betrayal, accusing China of walking back on its promise of high-degree autonomy and freedom of speech, marking it as the final straw, the last struggle before the country could override the laws in the city and indirectly, transition from the entity holding the right to veto the laws to now gripping the law altogether.
Despite of the speculated protests to spark like the history dictates, many of the sage minds predict either a relatively dormant demonstrations or none at all, having a tint of finality in the statement shote the protests are “high stake in risk and repression”. The recent arrest of the leading activists of Hong Kong standing up to voice their disdain to the separatist efforts of China further solidify the notion. Despite of a global condemnation to the new law, the efforts of China resume to subdue any opposition in Honk Kong no matter how sparse. Foreseeing no way out for Hong Kong this time; the Covid-19 paralysis the United States in its own crisis and the legislature inclining towards the Chinese pressure, a complete erasure of Hong Kong is sighted and could not be restrained- for better or for worse.
The Belligerent Chinese Diplomacy and Its Failure
The Chinese media has recently reported of Xi Jinping writing a letter to George Schultz the former chairman of Starbucks, the US coffee giant. In the letter, he has requested Schultz to play a positive role in advancing the US-China relations. While head of a major state writing letter to big corporate heads is not a common but not an unusual development either, this letter from Jinping should be seen in a relevant context. It indicates a certain amount of desperation and difficulty of China in its dealings with the US.
It suggests that after months of aggressive posturing and verbal duels against Trump, the State Department and Pentagon, China is now cosying up to the new Joe Biden administration. Further, it also means the recent Chinese aggressive posturing, wolf diplomacy has failed to bring in the desired results and that the Xi Jinping-led CCP is under more pressure now to soft-pedal the recent acrimonious ties between the two.
The year 2020 had been a very disappointing and calamitous year for the world. And Corona pandemic could well be cited as the most important reason. While the world as a whole has struggled to fight this unknown enemy individually as well as collectively, one country that has been in the limelight, for all the wrong reasons, been China.
Foreign policy and diplomacy is all about protecting and promoting the perceived national interests of a country. While achieving its objectives, the country tries to create and maintain a favourable image in the international community. The Chinese diplomatic endeavour since the ascension of Xi Jinping has been starkly opposite. From the most likely origin of Corona virus, to rebuking leaders, diplomats and media of other countries, China has been trying to create a new diplomatic norm, a new normal where none of the countries would dare criticising China, through political discourse, media or any other way while silently acceding to its territorial expansionary designs.
There have been unusually vitriolic reactions by Chinese diplomats against seemingly innocuous comments or actions by governments, politicians, diplomats or media in various countries. A very rational request by the Australian government to initiate investigations by the international community into the genesis of Corona virus, made China so furious that apart from making crude undiplomatic comments, it even created a virtual political, diplomatic and trade war against the country. Critical comment by certain politicians in Brazil and Japan, led Chinese diplomats to publicly issue personalised attacks against them.
The Chinese ambassador to Sweden has went on to lambast the country’s media in most rustic manner. No wonder, in the last two years, he has been summoned to the Swedish foreign ministry an unprecedented 40 times and there have been demands from native politicians for his expulsion. In India, a country that is being seen as the closest political and military rival by China but is scared of admitting it publicly, the diplomats have kept on reminding the government and media not to play the so-called Tibet card or must adhere to One-China policy by not getting close to Taiwan, have repeatedly been ignored by the government as well as the media.
No wonder, a recent Pew Research study has revealed that globally China has lost a huge amount of goodwill. A significantly very high majority of natives in nine of the advanced economies like the US, UK, Germany, Australia, South Korea, Sweden, Netherlands think negatively of China. Australia (81%), UK (74%), Sweden (85%), Netherlands (73%) show a very high increase in the negative perception against China, very recently and that has affected their politico-commercial relations too.
With the US, the Trump administration acting aggressively in the backdrop of the November Presidential elections, the Chinese actions of challenging the lone superpower has not helped the country anyway. On the contrary, US has become more supportive of Taiwan, politically as well as militarily, making it even more difficult or virtually impossible to China to even think of occupying the territory forcibly in near future. India that had maintained a cautious approach towards Taiwan till recently, have started enhancing political and commercial relations with the country.
In Asia, its aggressive military designs against India’s northern borders has had a very rude awakening for China. Used to a timid Indian approach since 1950s under Nehru, it never expected the aggressive Indian response that even put its own military positions in Moldo and other strategic positions vulnerable. To further undermine political and military calculations, its adversaries in South China seas like Vietnam, Indonesia and Philippines today are in advance negotiations with India to secure sophisticated missiles and armaments.
A very significant strategic development in the form of QUAD has taken the preliminary shape and that whenever gets in a concrete form, could well portend an ominous future for China, politically and militarily. The belligerent Chinese behaviour, especially since the onset of Corona virus has brought India, Australia, the US and Japan very close. With talks of Vietnam, Philippines and others in south-east Asia joining it later, the future of a QUAD could well be a security nightmare for China.
In the economic realm, India has reacted sharply too. Being a huge market for Chinese cheap goods and scores of apps till recently, India has not only banished hundreds of apps but has also been working on a mechanism to regulate, control and even stop imports in a number of segments from China. A big share of enormous infrastructural contracts in telecommunications, roads, ports, airports and railways in India too, have become difficult for Chinese companies. And taking a leaf out of India, the US and other countries too, are making it difficult for Chinese organisations to secure big contracts in their respective countries.
Over the next few years, China is going to lose a huge chunk of its popular and big market in India while territorially too, it has failed to make any significant gains. Strategically what China wished to see was countries like Japan, India, Australia, Vietnam, US all having disputes with it dealing individually rather than getting together and forming a coordinated and collective political, economic and strategic response against it. And the very opposite has happened. There have been greater and collective political, military and economic coordination amongst all these countries today and most of the strategies are aimed against one country, China.
All these developments including Xi’s letter to Schultz, indicate one point very certainly that Chinese belligerence has backfired hugely. It needs to reorient its diplomacy and political behaviour significantly and if it fails to do so, its position in the emerging post-Covid geopolitical order could be anything but that of an emerging superpower.
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