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China Thinks Uighur Separatists Are Based In Pakistan

November 3, 2011

If there’s any part of China that’s a white hot geopolitical fault line today, it’s Xinjiang (a.k.a. Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region), where minority Uighurs are slowly being edged out by incessant Han migration. Little surprise then how small incidents, i.e. a frustrated attack on a police station last July, have become fast circulating news. Other than the widely publicized 2009 riots, which saw hundreds killed and an overwhelming crackdown by Beijing, there’s a palpable fear that a secessionist movement is gaining strength in the region.

Pakistani journalist Amir Mir has his own take on the matter and it’s worth reading. His latest for the Asia Times Online reports a new level of Sino-Pakistani cooperation that could see the establishment of PLA bases in Pakistan’s restive tribal regions. According to Mir, “The Chinese desire is meant to contain growing terrorist activities of Chinese rebels belonging to the al-Qaeda-linked East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) that is also described as the Turkistani Islamic Party (TIP).”

Compared to the Taliban, however, or even Kurdish PKK fighters Turkey is always embroiled with, the shadowy Uighur separatists have left no impression on the outside world. Beijing likes to paint them as arch-foes, however.

When it comes to its fledgling overseas deployment, China has little to show. But this won’t always be the case. A Chinese naval base is already scheduled to become operational in Gwadar, a port facing the Arabian Sea.

The problem with the Uighur question is the evidence is still lacking. It’s one of those thorny issues where gut instinct and personal insight confirms the facts themselves. (Is there really a credible Pakistan-based separatist movement gathering strength?) So consider this a developing story.

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