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Terror at China’s doorstep

Author: Editorial
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: September 24, 2014
URL:
http://www.dailypioneer.com/columnists/edit/terror-at-chinas-doorstep.html

Will Beijing now realise what militancy does?
The multiple bomb blasts in China's Xinjiang Province that killed two, may only be the latest in a series of such incidents in the restive border region, but when viewed together, they offer a clear indication of how the local Uyghur separatist issue, once a mere irritant for Beijing, is fast becoming a major headache for the Chinese leadership. Sunday's blast comes less than two months after a deadly attack on a police station and a Government building near the provincial centre of Kashgar killed 37. Two days later, a religious leader, believed to be close to Beijing, was murdered in Kashgar's largest mosque. This time around, the blasts happened a couple of days before the verdict was announced in the trial of Ilham Tohti, an academic from the region, who was given a life sentence on Tuesday for supporting separatist activities. In March, knife-wielding Uyghur militants killed 31 people in cold blood and injured 141 others at a railway station in Kunming in south-west China. The brutality of that incident shocked the world, and put Beijing under much pressure — it was the first time that the militants had carried out an attack outside Xinjiang. Incidentally, the four Uyghur militants who were caught alive at Kunming were convicted earlier this month. To make matters worse for Beijing, the militants have reportedly established ties with the Islamic State. A day after the Xinjiang blasts, Chinese state media reported that some Uyghurs have fled to Syria to train with the IS. China's special envoy on Middle East affairs had previously complainedalong similar lines. None of this is surprising. Uyghur militants have for long maintained connections with Islamist terror organisations, including Al Qaeda; in fact, not only have they received funding and training from Al Qaeda but also fought in its ranks in Iraq and Afghanistan. Therefore, it was only a matter of time before the Uyghurs linked up with the IS and added to Beijing’s woes.

The bigger question is: Will growing militancy in Xinjiang impact China's relationship with its all-weather friend, Pakistan? Since Xinjiang borders Pakistan's lawless tribal Provinces, Uyghur militants regularly travel to those areas that are already a haven for terrorists — and have been doing more so, since Beijing turned up the heat in Xinjiang. In Pakistan, they collaborate with local terror groups and merge into the larger global jihadi network. That the co-founder of the most prominent Uyghur militant, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, was radicalised in a Pakistani madarssa, shows how organically they are connected. More recently, the leader of another Uyghur militant group, Turkestan Islamic Party, Abdullah Mansour, recently vowed from his hideout in Pakistan to wage a holy war against China. Ironically, over the years China has covertly encouraged Pakistan’s dalliance with Islamist terrorism, in the hope that it will be a permanent thorn for India, Beijing only real rival in Asia. Now, the tables are slowly turning.
 
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