AFTER USA, China has become the latest victim of this modern day Bhasmasura or Frankenstein monster called Pakistan.
Casting aside its long valued, cherished friendship with Islamabad, for the first time, China last week blamed Islamic extremists trained in Pakistan for an attack that killed 11 people on the eve of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in its restive western region of Xinjiang.
The attack in Kashgar city shook the region where Muslim Uighurs have long opposed the presence of Han Chinese and Beijing’s administrative control.
It came less than 24 hours after two small blasts hit the city, which is dominated by Uighurs.
“A group of religious extremists led by culprits trained in overseas terrorist camps were behind the weekend attack,” a local government statement said.
An initial police investigation found that the leaders of the group responsible for the attack were trained in explosives and firearms in Pakistan at a camp of the separatist “East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM)”, it said.
According to the official Xinhua news agency, police shot dead five people and arrested four others who were said to have stormed a restaurant and set it afire after killing the owner and a waiter before running on to the street and hacking to death four people.
The statement further described the attacks as “another violent terrorist action by a small group of foes organised and planned under special conditions. Their malign intention behind this terrorist violence was to sabotage inter-ethnic unity and harm social stability, provoking ethnic hatred and creating ethnic conflict.”
It said the captured suspects had confessed that the ringleaders had earlier gone to Pakistan and joined the “East Turkestan Islamic Movement” to receive firearms and explosives training and that they infiltrated back into China. Eighteen people including 14 “rioters” were killed in an attack on a police station in Xinjiang on July18.
In July 2009, the regional capital, Urumqi, was rocked by violence between majority Han Chinese and minority Uighurs in which nearly 200 people were killed, most of them Han Chinese.
The 2011 Hotan attack was a series of coordinated bomb and knife attacks that occurred in Hotan, Xinjiang, People’s Republic of China on July 18, 2011. While many had always suspected Pakistani involvement in terrorism in Xinjiang, the 2011 Hotan attack marked the first incident of acknowledgement of this by authorities in China.
In recent years, there have also been five attacks on Chinese nationals in Pakistan. Three of these attacks were in Balochistan and one each in the North-West Frontier Province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Chinese nationals were killed in four of these incidents while two instances of assault took place after the commando action at Lal Masjid in Islamabad in July 2007. Three Chinese nationals were killed by unidentified persons in Peshawar and Chinese engineers travelling by bus in Balochistan had a miraculous escape when there was an explosion targeting their bus. There was also an incident involving kidnapping of six Chinese sex workers working in an Islamabad massage parlour by some women students of the girls’ madarsa at Lal Masjid.
Ironically, Beijing’s strong and surprising statement against Islamabad came within months of the bonhomie witnessed during the four day visit of Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar during which China’s top leadership vowed strong diplomatic and material support for Pakistan in the aftermath of the assassination of Osama Bin Laden by US Navy Seals and consequent deterioration in ties between Washington and Islamabad.
This included an agreement to accelerate production of the JF-17 Thunder jet, a joint Chinese-Pakistani project, to enable Islamabad to take delivery of 50 of the combat planes before the end of 2011. China also adopted Pakistan’s description of the Beijing-Islamabad relationship as an “all-weather” partnership.
More significantly, China took control over the newly built Arabian Sea port facility in Gwadar, Balochistan, whose construction was financed by China and which has long been a focus of US strategic concerns.
The joint communiqué issued at the end of Gilani’s visit affirmed the intention of Beijing and Islamabad to increase their cooperation on numerous strategic and economic fronts, “particularly” in respect to “the Afghan issue.”
While continuing to refrain from explicitly condemning the Abbottabad operation against Osama, Chinese leaders lavished praised on Islamabad for its efforts in countering terrorism and affirmed their support for Pakistani sovereignty.
“The Chinese side recognised the tremendous efforts and great sacrifice that Pakistan has made in fighting terrorism and reiterated its respect and support for Pakistan’s efforts to advance its counter-terrorism strategy and safeguard its security,” the joint statement said.
Pakistan’s most influential English-language daily,The Dawn, even reported that Beijing “urged the US to publicly acknowledge Pakistan’s role in the global war against terrorism and accept the constraints that Islamabad operates under. The Chinese are also reported to have asked Washington to refrain from publicly humiliating Pakistan.”
What’s more, another Pakistan daily, The News, quoted diplomatic sources in its report that during his Washington meetings, China’s foreign minister formally warned the US “in unequivocal terms that any attack on Pakistan would be construed as an attack on China.”
China and Pakistan have historically enjoyed a close and mutually beneficial relationship since establishing diplomatic ties in 1951. China’s role as a major arms supplier for Pakistan began in the 1960s and included assistance in building a number of arms factories in Pakistan and supplying complete weapons systems.
In fact, in an article in July 2008 issue of CSIS (Centre for Strategic and International Studies) newsletter, South Asia experts Elizabeth GM Parker and Teresita C Schaffer wrote, “Until about 1990, Beijing clearly sought to build up Pakistan to keep India off balance.”
However, China’s changing perception and its growing concern over the activities of terrorist trained in Pakistan in the wake of the Kashgar attacks was reflected in a write up in the Global Times run by the Communist Party.
“A group of religious extremists led by militants trained in overseas terrorist camps was behind the weekend attack on civilians in China’s far-western Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region that left 6 dead and 15 others wounded…The initial probe found that the group’s leaders had learned how to make explosives and firearms in overseas camps of the terrorist group “East Turkistan Islamic Movement” in Pakistan before entering Xinjiang to organise terrorist activities….”
Pan Zhiping, a researcher with the Central Asia Studies Institute under the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences, termed ETIM, based somewhere along the Pak border, as “the most violent and dangerous” among the “East Turkistan” separatist forces.
The ETIM, a Waziri based Mujahideen organisation, operates in close co-ordination with Al Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Afghan Taliban and the Islamic Jihad Union from hide-outs in North Waziristan.
While the attacks in Xinjiang are most unfortunate and India should share with China all relevant information pertaining to the Jehadi groups under its scanner, the fact also remains that except rendering lip service, Beijing has never been sensitive or responsive to India’s concerns over the proxy war engaged against it by Pakistan. What’s more, till the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, China prevented the UN Security Council’s Anti-Terrorism Monitoring Committee from declaring the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba as terrorist organisations. It also used to support Pakistan’s propaganda that the JuD was a humanitarian organisation.
China also continues to be in illegal occupation of approximately 38,000 sq km in Jammu and Kashmir, while Pakistan has illegally ceded 5,180 sq km of Indian territory to Beijing.
The Kashgar attacks must have come as an eye opener for China. If not, it is high time Beijing realises that Bhasmasura and Frankenstein monsters finally turn against their own creators and sustainers. Pakistan is no exception. Everything comes for a price. The Kashgar violence was part of the package of Indian territory in Kashmir ceded to China by Pakistan. Beijing just could not see through the Pakistani game plan.
China can also take a tip or two from the Greek conqueror Alexander, the Great, who despite receiving all help from King Ambhi of Taxila against fellow Indian King Porus and even winning the war, labeled him (Ambhi) as a traitor and gifted his territory to the defeated monarch who famously demanded that he be treated “like a King”.
Washington has apparently realised its mistake in nurturing a rogue state like Pakistan. China would do well to accept it before Xinjiang is turned into another Kashmir.