• 22 May, 2022
Foreign Affairs. Geopolitics. National Security.

Turkistan Islamic Movement: A grave national security crisis awaiting China

Tue, 10 Aug 2021   |  Reading Time: 3 minutes

Beijing [China], August 10 (ANI): The East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), also known as the Turkistan Islamic Movement is a grave national security threat to China, said a Canada-based think tank.

In a report, the International Forum for Rights and Security (IFFRAS) highlighted that ETIM is basically an Uyghur group with a key objective of self-determination for the ethnic Uyghur community of Xinjiang province in China and the creation of an autonomous ‘East Turkestan’ out of it.

Uyghurs are largely a Muslim ethnic population of about 13 million that China assumes to be harbouring extremist views combined with secessionist tendencies. Xinjiang is of immense importance to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The BRI is a trillion-dollar infrastructure project along the lines of the ancient Silk Road that aims to expedite both economic growth and connectivity in the Eurasian region, largely to China’s advantage, reported IFFRAS.

In fact, four of the six route networks constituting the BRI, pass through Xinjiang, connecting China with Russia, Central, Western and Southern Asia up to the Mediterranean Sea. Owing to its strategic significance, China is wary that the ETIM will spread extremism in the province which could be a potential threat to its BRI project.

According to an Asia Times report, ETIM is considered amongst the leading foreign terror groups operating in Afghanistan. The United Nations had categorized ETIM as a ‘terror organization’ since 2002. However, the Trump administration removed the group from America’s terror list in November 2020 citing lack of credible evidence on its existence, reported IFFRAS.

The draconian measures adopted by the Chinese state to suppress Muslims in Xinjiang amounts to unimaginable crimes against humanity. This includes door to door search and illegal detention of Muslims in ‘internment camps’. The detainees have to undergo forced education, where they are indoctrinated to disavow Islam, forgo using their language and other cultural practices and study Mandarin Chinese language and Communist Party propaganda.

One could possibly fall short of words to describe the game that China has been playing to advance its foreign policy, particularly vis-a-vis Islamic nations. On one hand, China is getting closer to the Islamic countries in Central and West Asia and even strengthening its bilateral relations with terrorist groups like the Islamic State group and the Taliban. On the other end, oppressive policies are being meted out to its Uyghur Muslim population within its own territory, reported IFFRAS.

In conventional terms, one would expect the Islamic states to unanimously stand against China in the name of the ‘Islamic Brotherhood’ but astonishingly, they are seen to be aligning with China leaving the Uyghur Muslims to fight a battle for survival, all by themselves, reported IFFRAS.

There are a few possible reasons as to why China enjoys such support from the Islamic world and particularly the Islamic State & the Taliban that usually act otherwise. First, China’s smart policy of commerce instead of military, unlike the US, seems to be aiding its interests in the region. Second, China knows the art of using time correctly in diplomacy. Currently, its ties with the Islamic World are noted to have reached a historic high. China took quick steps to strengthen its ties with key Islamic states like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Turkey and Afghanistan.

Third, China has also over time strengthened its ties with the Taliban through frequent visits using its Pakistani contacts, reported IFFRAS. Suhail Shaheen, Spokesperson of Taliban recently said that “We have been to China many times and have good relations with them. China is a friendly country and we welcome it for reconstruction and developing Afghanistan. If (the Chinese) have investments, of course, we will ensure their safety.”

According to a report in the Asia Times, China has been cautiously monitoring ETIM’s activities and has hastened to create mechanisms to keep a tab on it to ensure its control over Xinjiang, especially now with the US withdrawal from Afghanistan going into its final stages.

China has approached the very people who recruit Uyghur Muslims, to prevent ETIM infiltration into China, in return for financial aid, a move that could be perceived as either smart or naive, a difference that only time can tell. (ANI)

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