A tale of two Kashmirs
That China too has its Kashmir and problems with Islamist separatists identical to Indiaâ€™s Kashmir is not widely known. â€˜Xinjiangâ€™, actually pronounced as â€˜Sinkiangâ€™ for postal purposes, is Chinaâ€™s Kashmir. Xinjiang actually shares borders with Ladakh in Indiaâ€™s Kashmir. But unlike Kashmir it is not a small area. Its size is 1.8 million sq km; almost one-sixth of China; half as much as India. Indiaâ€™s Kashmir measures some 2,65,000 sq km. Of which some 86,000 sq km is under Pakistan; some 37,500 sq km under China; the balance, 1,41,000 sq km, is with India. The disputed part of Indiaâ€™s Kashmir, some 1,45,000 sq km, is less than one hundredth of Xinjiang. So Chinaâ€™s Kashmir is physically 100 times bigger than Indiaâ€™s and therefore its problem too is bigger. Yet many do not know about it.
The reason is that China prevented Xinjiang, its Kashmir, from becoming an international issue like Indiaâ€™s Kashmir. Xinjiang, which had a majority of Turkish Muslims (Uighurs) in 1949, had a short-lived state of East Turkestan. China invaded it, crushed it, and won back its territory. The name Xinjiang literally means â€˜old frontier returns to Chinaâ€™. See the contrast. A year earlier, in 1948, India almost won back most of Kashmir from Pakistan which had invaded it, but voluntarily offered and turned it into an international issue. It was India, not Pakistan, which went to the United Nations; made it an international issue. It is struggling to say it is a bilateral one. Now, on to how China handled Xinjiang, its Kashmir, and integrated it with mainland China.
Xinjiang has a population of 20 million plus. The Uighur Muslims constitute 45 per cent, other Muslims 12 per cent and the Han Chinese 41 per cent. What was the Han population in Xinjiang in 1949? Just six per cent. In six decades it has risen by seven times. This change did not occur by itself. China did not just trust army or administrative control of its territory in Xinjiang. It trusted only its people. It ensured that the Han Chinese slowly began populating Xinjiang. The result is self-evident. But the 41 per cent Han Chinese population does not include defence personnel and families, and unregistered migrant Chinese workers.
Xinjiang was once known for a variety of agricultural products, but now, for more. Its GDP rose from $28 billion in 2004 to $60 billion in 2008. Its per capita GDP (2008) is $2,864, almost the same as the national average. It has large deposits of minerals and oil. The oil and gas extraction industry in Xinjiang is booming; it has a pipeline to Shanghai. This sector accounts for 60 per cent of Xinjiangâ€™s economy. With a vast area, huge resources, and sparse population, Xinjiang benefits China more than the other way round. In contrast the economic cost of Indiaâ€™s Kashmir is very high. It receives a per capita Central grant of Rs 8,092, while for other Indian states it is Rs 1,137. If the grant were given directly by money order each Kashmir family of five would receive Rs 40,460 every year.
Still, the Uighur Muslims are unhappy with communist China. The World Uyghur Congress led by Rebiya Kadeer, a businesswoman based in Germany, is fighting for the freedom of Uighurs. There is violence and terror in Xinjiang like in Kashmir but not on that scale thanks to Pakistanâ€™s ISI being friendly to China as common cause against India. The Uighurs are therefore not getting any support from Pakistan. Yet militancy is growing. There were terror strikes in Xinjiang on August 5 last year, just three days ahead of the Beijing Olympics, killing 16 policemen. On August 11, when the Olympics was in progress, attacks took place near Beijing in which 11 people were killed. And just last week, on July 6, there were huge riots between Uighur Muslims and Han Chinese in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, resulting in 184 deaths and over 1,000 people injured. Most of the dead and injured were Han Chinese even though Urumqi is overwhelmingly Han Chinese, nearly three-fourths. See how the Chinese reacted to the July 6 riots.
President Hu Jintao, who was to attend the G8 meeting, flew back in a tacit admission of the depth of the crisis. His government declared war on â€˜three forcesâ€™, namely â€" â€˜separatism, extremism and terrorismâ€™. It banned Friday prayers in Urumqi mosques and told the Muslims to pray from their homes, something no other country would or could do. China has also pointed to al-Qaeda as inspiration for the trouble.
Yes, China does have problems with Islamist separatists, extremists and terrorists. But it has, by diplomacy and action, ensured that it remains an internal problem, unlike India, which has on its own made Kashmir an international issue. China has also changed the religious and political demography of Xinjiang by ensuring that 41 per cent of the provinceâ€™s population is non-Muslim.
Instead of working to change the demography in favour of India as China has done, the Indian government could not even prevent the expulsion of Hindus from the Valley. While Xinjiang is half filled by Han Chinese, Kashmir has been cleansed of Hindus. The result is that India has to defend Kashmir with the army instead of the people.
Had India followed the policy the Chinese adopted in Xinjiang, conquering Kashmir back instead of contracting under Article 370, which prevents Indians in other places from migrating to the Valley, today Kashmir would have demographically integrated with India. We would be dealing with internal riots occasionally like China does; but we would not face or fight wars with Pakistan and with terrorists every day.
The lesson for India is: demography â€" religious demographic balance that is in tune with the national mainstream â€" is the guarantee for the nation, more so at the borders. China gradually brought Xinjiang, its Kashmir, into the national mainstream through the Han Chinese. But India constitutionally contracted to keep its Kashmir out of the mainstream; it even cleansed it of the mainstream by making the Hindus refugees in their own nation. What a contrast!
QED: Augustus Comte, the 19th century French philosopher, said, â€œdemography is destinyâ€�. Citing him, The Economist (August 24-31, 2002) emphasised the importance of demographic influences on nations and economies. China understood the critical nature of religious demography; India did not. This is the differing tale of two Kashmirs.
About the author:S Gurumurthy is a well-known commentator on political and economic issues
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