With Common Threat from Pakistan:
India and China Must Jointly Fight Terror
By Manzoor Ahmed
It may seem unusual, even unpalatable in some quarters, but it is time for India and China to join hands to fight terrorism for their mutual good and for the good of the region.
It is so because they are fcing threat from a common source – Pakistan-based outfits many of whom are sponsored by Pakistan Army’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
I t has been established many times over that terror violence, be it in China’s Xinjiang province or various Indian cities —the latest being the Delhi High Court in New Delhi — emanates mainly from Pakistan.
While India is telling the whole world about it, the response, like 9/11 that happened a decade ago, is delayed, selective, governed by diplomatic compulsions and comes only when an individual country is hit.
China too knows the source, but is bound by a deep and extensive relationship with Pakistan, its strategic partner. It needs Pakistan to play it against India, that it sees as a rival, if not adversary in the region.
Even so, it was noteworthy that the Chinese government on September 8 condemned the blast outside the Delhi High Court, also called for greater international cooperation to fight terrorism.
“China condemns the incident, extends sincere solicitude for families of victims and wounded, and expresses condolences to those who unfortunately lost their lives,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Liu Weimin said.
He also said China supported international efforts to jointly combat terrorism, when asked about recent claims made by a terrorist group, the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP), of being behind attacks in China’s far-western Xinjiang region which left at least 40 people dead.
“The 10th anniversary of the September 11 incident is drawing near. We also hope the international community should strengthen cooperation and should do more for the goal of combating terrorism,” he said.
China, too, he said, was a victim of terrorism. “Our principled position is that at present, a small handful of terrorist forces…,out of motives of splitting China, are conducting rampant violent terrorist activities within China’s border [and] seriously undermine China’s national unity, and regional peace and stability.”
For obvious diplomatic compulsions, the spokesperson stopped short of naming the source of training and logistic support given to the TIP from across the Chinese bordeer, in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (POK).
This is because China is still playing up to Pakistan, the way it hosted President Asif Ali Zardari, wh celebrated the Eid U Fitr in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, which has witnesseds a spate of violence.
Zardari came a few days after a Xinjiang spokesman alleged at a media briefing that the last round of violence in which 40 persons were killed weas caused by those
trained in Pakistan.
The surprise allegation was a signal to Pakistan and Zardari responded by paying a visit to Xinjiang. Zardari sought to address Chinese concerns over the spread of terrorism from across the border, telling the region’s Communist Party Chief Zhang Chunxian his government would work closely with China on fighting terrorism.
Beijing has since done a bit of political balancing by hosting Fatima Bhutto, an arch critic of Zardari, but is also readying to host Bilawal, son of Zardari and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
While these are political postures, blowing hot and cold on Pakistan, China has also approached the Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan’s principal Islamist political party, if an American diplomat’s cable, put put by WikiLeaks is to be believed.
The Communist Party of China (CPC) sought the support of Jamaat-e-Islaami (JI) to tackle “radicalised” groups who were backing separatists in Xinjiang, scholars in official Chinese think-tanks and Afghan diplomats told U.S. officials, according to a cable from March 2009 that was among the last tranche of cables released by Wikileaks.
The cable underscores China’s long-persisting concerns over the spread of extremism from neighbouring Pakistan, voiced recently following attacks in Kashgar and Hotan which Chinese authorities blamed on terrorists trained in Pakistan.
The separatist TIP, which has active camps near Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, claimed responsibility for the violence, which left at least 40 people dead.
In early 2009, China decided it wanted to “directly deal with JI” because radicalised groups “were suspicious of Chinese interests in Pakistan and supported Xinjiang separatists,” Ye Hailin, a scholar at the official Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), a think-tank close to the Chinese government, reportedly told U.S. officials. The JI, China believed, had “strong influence” on those groups.
However, violence in Xinjiang province – in Urumqi, Kashgar and Hotan — shows that there are no positive results from this approach to the Jamaat.
On the other hand a just-released 10-minute 44-second video message shows TIP leader Abdul Shakoor Damla clearly indicating that his men were trained in Pakistan.
The TIP claim of responsibility for the attacks was the first for which Chinese authorities had blamed on terrorists trained in camps in Pakistan. The United States-based SITE Intelligence Group said the video was made by the TIP.
If the claims are proved accurate, the video will reaffirm Chinese fears of the TIP’s growing presence in neighbouring Pakistan, and also question claims by overseas exiled Uighur groups who had blamed the suppression of protests by police for triggering violence in Hotan.
In Kashgar, attackers hijacked a truck and rammed it into a group of pedestrians before hacking at Chinese shoppers in a food street with knives. The local government said some of the attackers had trained in terror camps in Pakistan. Kashgar lies close to Xinjiang’s border with PoK.
The reason why China should cooeprate with India is that it cannot live in isolation. It is facing the same problems as itsCentral Asian neighbours and those in South Asia.
For instance, Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI), which claimed responsibility for the Delhi High Court blast, has deep contacts across South Asia. It is active in Bangladesh and Nepal as well.
Indian investigators probing the Delhi High Court blast are also looking at another Pakistan-based outfit, Jaish-e-Mohammed, whose member Afzal Guru’s clemency petition was recently rejected by the home ministry.
Indian intelligence agencies have had a stream of inputs starting sometime in 2005 about HuJI recruiting significant number of local Indian youth for terror training. This also gives investigators reasons to suspect that HuJI could execute such a blast with local recruits.
Sources said some time ago, HuJI had even targeted the Pakistani high commission in Delhi. In July, Pakistani foreign secretary Salman Bashir reportedly received a letter from HuJI saying they would attack the high commission in Delhi if Pakistan shared details of HuJI chief Ilyas Kashmiri with India. Kashmiri, who started HuJI operations in India in the 1990s, is believed to have been killed by a US drone in Waziristan in June 2011.
Security forces say the known HuJI modules in J&K were busted a few years ago. The head of HuJI operations in India, Shahid Bilal, who fled to Pakistan, was gunned down in Karachi a few years ago as well. Bilal, after receiving training in Pakistan and Bangladesh, returned to Hyderabad in 2005 and masterminded the attack on the Special Task Force headquarters.
The moot point is that Pakistan is unable to save even is own establishments from the wrath of the militant groups that it has spawned and continues to train and finance.
That being the case, it is imperative that India and China, easily the worst affected in the region, should cooperate closely to fight terrorism.