Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Xinjiang: Who's your mummy?

When Indian reporters question visiting Pakistani politicians about the Kashmir issue, they usually assume the Indian establishment's point of view. I've always felt these chaps didn't ask questions that would really put Pakistani leaders in a spot. I have not, for instance, come across any reference to China's Xinjiang province in interviews with the likes of Nawaz Sharif and Pervez Musharraf.
Xinjiang is a mainly Muslim, ethnically majority Uighur province in China with a separatist movement that Beijing tries hard to suppress. Since China is one of Pakistan's closest and most important allies, Pakistani leaders will never say a word in favour of separatists in Xinjiang.
So, when a Pakistani President or Prime Minister or Foreign Minister says, "We believe in the right of self-determination for Kashmiris", it might be worthwhile asking, "Do you also favour the right of self-determination for Uighurs in Xinjiang?". It'll be fun watching the interviewee trying to wriggle out of that spot.
Xinjiang and the Uighurs are likely to force themselves into the lexicon of Indian reporters following a news item yesterday that China has blamed separatists trained in Pakistan for a terrorist attack within Xinjiang. Pakistan, of course, immediately condemned the attack, but will have to do more than condemn it to placate the Chinese.

As an unrelated aside, Xinjiang, like many of the earth's driest places, has revealed an old tradition of mummification, dating back four thousand years. The Xinjiang mummies, or Tarim Basin Mummies are unusual because the oldest dessicated bodies show distinctly Caucasoid features. It seems like the first inhabitants of Xinjiang rode in from Europe, and were gradually joined by East Asians. The Uighurs only migrated to the area in the 9th century, which, if I recall correctly, is also around the time Turks first got to Turkey.


Debu Barve said...

Interesting post! Thanks Girish.

DS said...

If and when China gets into 'blaming Pakistan' mode with some regularity and conviction, it will be the gamechanger in Asia .... The new "Great Game" starts.

jaimit said...

hahah. its a interesting one. politics, religion, tyranny. they all make for bedfellas. and i just heard this amazing podcast on the north korean regime. not thats directly related, but i dunno - they all seemed to connect in my mind.

Girish Shahane said...

Will hear it soon, Jaimit, thanks.

Girish Shahane said...

Debu, thanks. DS, exactly right.