Though there have been no reports of any violent incidents in the Xinjiang province of China for over three weeks now, the Chinese authorities are taking no chances with internal security and law and order in the province.
2. The army units, which were inducted into the province after the violent disturbances from July 5 to 8,2009, in which over 190 persons, the majority of them Hans, were killed, continue to be in over-all charge of security and law and order. In recent days, President Hu Jintao has been travelling in the Yunnan province which has sizable Tibetan and Uighur populations and a number of other non-Han minority tribal communities. The Chinese media has projected the purpose of his visit to Yunnan as to study the economic situation there and the action taken by the local authorities to deal with the difficulties of the people.
3. While this may be so, there is a strong possibility that another purpose could have been to re-assure the non-Han minorities that Beijing was sympathetic to their problems. Last year, before the Olympics, there was an explosion in a bus in Kunming, the capital of the Yunnan province. Even though the Chinese authorities did not give any details of the subsequent investigation, the suspicion was focused on the local Tibetan and Uighur population. There are no indications that Hu went to Xinjiang from Yunnan.
4.The Chinese have been shaken by the recent disturbances in Urumqi, but they are not prepared to concede that the Uighur anger was triggered off by their discriminatory policies towards the non-Han minorities. They see no need for any change in their policy relating to the ethnic minorities. In other words, they see no need for re-visiting their present policy of encouraging the Hans to settle in the minority areas in large numbers. They believe that the Hans have the right to settle down and live in any part of the Chinese territory, including in the areas which are looked upon by the minorities as their traditional homeland, just as the Tibetans, the Uighurs and other non-Han minorities have the right to settle down and live in any part of China. They do not accept the argument that the Hans moving into non-Han areas amounts to a Han colonisation of these areas. They have thus totally ruled out any change in their present policies, which are viewed by the minorities as meant to change the demographic composition of the non-Han areas.
5. There are strong indicators from independent sources in the Uighur diaspora in Pakistan that the disturbances in Xinjiang in the first week of July were initially externally-instigated by the Munich-based and US-funded World Uighur Congress (WUC) headed by the US-based Rebiya Kadeer and subsequently exploited by the North Waziristan (in Pakistan) based Islamic Movement of Eastern Turkestan (IMET), which operates in tandem with Al Qaeda as a member of its International Islamic Front (IIF) for Jihad Against the Crusaders and the Jewish People formed in 1998.
6. The Chinese have been greatly concerned over threats purported to have been disseminated by the IMET through the Internet calling for opportunistic acts of reprisal against Han Chinese wherever found. The Chinese diplomatic missions in Pakistan and Turkey have cautioned their citizens working in these countries to cut down their movements to the absolute minimum that is necessary. The Chinese Foreign Office has also issued advisories to its citizens to avoid traveling to Turkey for some time till the anti-Chinese anger in Turkey subsides.
7.The Chinese concerns over the security situation in Tibet and Xinjiang have been increased by the forthcoming 60th anniversary of the October Revolution, which they plan to observe in a big way all over China . While there are no reports at present of the likelihood of any fresh violence in the Tibetan areas, Chinese security authorities do not rule out the possibility of fresh acts of violence by the Uighurs in China itself as well as in other countries. They have stepped up preventive arrests in Xinjiang. Nearly 1900 Uighur suspects are estimated to be in preventive custody in jails in Xinjiang itself as well as in Sichuan.
8. The Chinese are closely monitoring the movements of Rebiya Kadeer, who has gone to Australia after a visit to Japan and is expected to go to Turkey. Despite strong opposition from Beijing, the authorities in Japan and Australia issued her a visa. The Chinese have been gratified by media reports that India declined her request for a visa.
9. Russia, China, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan have been closely monitoring the activities of various pro-Al Qaeda groups operating in Xinjiang, the Central Asian Republics (CARs), Chechnya and Dagestan in Russia. Recent reports indicate that the Uzbecks, Chechens and Uighurs trained in Al Qaeda training camps in North Waziristan have started moving towards their home bases in order to step up their jihad against the Governments of these countries and to disrupt the movement of logistic supplies to the US and other NATO troops through their territory.
10. It is the assessment of well-informed Pakistani Police sources in the Pashtun areas that during the last two weeks there has been a decrease in the activities of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan because trained TTP elements have been moving into Afghanistan to help the Afghan Taliban in its operations against the US-UK offensive in the Helmand province of Afghanistan. The TTP cadres are going in replacement of the Uighurs, Uzbeks and Chechens who are being moved towards Central Asia, Xinjiang and Chechnya. This also suits the Pakistan Army since it relieves pressure on it.
11.An upsurge in acts of terrorism in this region is apprehended. Russia cannot afford to be complacent over the situation in Chechnya and Dagestan. As the fighting in Afghanistan escalates, reprisal attacks by Al Qaeda and pro-Al Qaeda organisations in areas such as South-East, South and Central Asia and in the Muslim majority regions of Russia is a possibility to be reckoned with.
(The writer, Mr B.Raman, is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India,New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associate with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: email@example.com )