Rejecting Rebiya Kadeer’s visa application

…was a prudent and astute move by New Delhi

Rebiya Kadeer is indeed a remarkable woman. In recent weeks—not least due to China’s propaganda campaign to demonise her—she has emerged internationally as the best known symbol of Uighur separatism in China’s Xinjiang province. She has unequivocally advocated a non-violent political struggle, claimed that she is inspired by the Dalai Lama’s principles and is almost surely sustained by US government funding.

The Calcutta Telegraph reports that India has denied her a visa (linkthanks Pragmatic Euphony via twitter). That is both prudent and astute. Whatever the merits of the Uighur cause, it is not in India’s interests to further escalate the level of direct antagonism with Beijing. Doing so would almost certainly draw attention away from the real faultline: between China and Turkic-Islamic world.

The ethnic riots in Xinjiang have caused a major rift in China’s relations with Turkey, after Receb Tayyib Erdogan, the popular Turkish prime minister, accused Beijing of conducting genocide and suggesting that it be taken up at the UN Security Council. China-Turkey bilateral relations are at a low. The Central Asian republics are also likely to be re-examining their own positions with respect to relations with China.

In contrast, the ‘Muslim world’ of popular imagination—the one that President Barack Obama spoke to in Cairo—has been conspicuously silent. Apart from a threat by a North African ‘affiliate’ of al-Qaeda, even the tapeworm and his traveling videographic studio has been silent about Chinese atrocities on Xinjiang’s Muslims. It is understandable that the regimes of such representatives of the ‘Muslim world’ as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran are beholden to Beijing but even the civil society in these countries has given China the pass. But if the Uighur unrest continues, it is likely that Islamabad, Riyadh and Tehran will be put in an uncomfortable but well-deserved position. [Update: Rohit Pradhan notes that “Death to China” chants were heard at Rafsanjani’s rally in Tehran]

India should let the issue play out among the direct and self-appointed stakeholders. Intervening in a way that China sees as unfriendly will only draw the heat away and give the megaphone-wielding, concern-expressing capitals of the ‘Muslim world’ an undeserved reprieve.

The issue of an Indian visa for Ms Kadeer is only of symbolic importance. If she wants to meet the Dalai Lama, she could catch up with him on his travels abroad.

On Pakistani passports

Cross-border terrorism, directed northwards

The terrorists were travelling on Pakistani passports. They may have been locals, but trained in jihadi training camps across the border. The mastermind is suspected to be a Pakistani national. The plan was to bring down an commercial airliner flying from the restive separatist region to the national capital by igniting gasoline hidden in soft-drink cans.

Sounds familiar? Well, this is the story of China Southern Airlines flight CZ6901 from Urumqi in Xinjiang to Beijing. The two terrorists on flight were arrested when they failed to set the bombs off, and were overpowered by the crew. And according to some reports the Pakistani national who masterminded this plot is at large. According to others, the third was arrested in a week and has confessed to the crime.

China has not officially revealed the link to Pakistan, perhaps not to unnecessarily embarrass its ally in public. It does not need to. General Musharraf is perhaps already sweating. A crackdown against jihadis is on the cards. It’s not as if Pakistan’s new prime minister needed this.

Related Link: A Chinese journalist’s account of eyewitness accounts and censorship. (via Violent Eclipse)