Ten Uighurs, three Hans and two Mongols working for the Ministry of Public Security in Xinjiang and six Uighur separatists were killed on the morning of April 23,2013, in an incident in the Selibya Township in the Bachu county, in the Kashgar area of China’s Xinjiang province. The area of the incident is near Xinjiang’s borders with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
2. The Information Office of the Xinjiang Government has projected the incident as a “severe, violent, terror incident” which has been brought under control. It has projected 15 of those killed as police officers and social workers helping the police in maintaining security.
3. In its announcement, the Information Office has given the following details of the incident: The incident happened after three community workers found several suspicious people and knives in a local house. They reported the details to their supervisor but were then restrained by suspected terrorists. When police and community workers arrived, they were ambushed by attackers inside and outside the house. The attackers, who had killed the three community workers who had been held captive, then set fire to the house. By the time police brought the situation under control, 15 people had been killed by the gang. Six gang members were shot dead at the scene, bringing the death toll to 21.
4.The “China Daily” has quoted Mutalif Wubuli, commissioner of Kashgar prefecture, as saying that eight suspects have been arrested. It has also quoted Qi Baowen, commander of the Xinjiang Armed Police, as saying that the consequences of the incident are relatively severe because there are many casualties.
5. Last month, courts in Kashgar had sentenced 19 people for their alleged involvement in organized terror activities and for spreading extreme religious information via the Internet and cellphones.
6.In March, the local Ministry of Public Security had started what was described as “Social management in communities” under which Uighurs were recruited as community workers to help the police in the maintenance of security. “It is the foundation of maintaining stability in the region,” Xiong Xuanguo, Secretary of the Political and Legal Affairs Commission of Xinjiang, had said in a media briefing.
7. The incident of April 23,2013, appears to have been in retaliation for the jailing of 19 Uighurs last month and to deter the local Uighurs from co-operating with the police in dealing with separatism.
8. In a commentary on the incident carried on April 25,2013, the “Global Times” of the Communist Party of China said: “The latest clashes show that Xinjiang has a long way to go in its anti-terrorism efforts. But it's worth pointing out that this case will not pose a threat to the overall stability of Xinjiang. The public expects social harmony and prosperity…..Although Xinjiang has experienced several violent clashes in recent years, social confidence in Xinjiang and the confidence of the whole country toward the region have remained stable. The situation in Xinjiang since the July 5 riots in 2009 has improved and no violent cases have impeded that process. As the sources of violence in Xinjiang haven't been eradicated, its occasional occurrence cannot be fully prevented. Xinjiang has learned to manage the situation despite some isolated violent cases. It has been investigating and eradicating the internal and external sources of violent terrorist attacks. We should firmly act against violent terrorists. Terrorists should not be permitted to have the misconception that they are carrying out a "holy war" or simply fighting against the regime. They must be clear that they are making enemies of all the Xinjiang people and the Chinese people.”
9.The Xinjiang authorities have not so far blamed the Pakistan-based Islamic Movement of Eastern Turkestan for the fresh violence. They are apparently worried that as the US-led Western troops thin out from Afghanistan, violence by different separatist groups could increase in Xinjiang adding to internal instability. Hence, their interest in co-operating with India in monitoring the ground situation in Afghanistan.
10.The Chinese face a two-pronged threat to their peripheral security--- from the growing anger of the Tibetans in the Tibetan areas and from the Uighurs in Xinjiang. Their hopes that rapid economic development of these areas will dilute the threat have been belied so far.
11. In view of China’s insensitivity to India’s core interests and major concerns in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, it will not be in India’s interest to co-operate with China in relation to its peripheral security problems. ( 25-4-2013)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. Twitter : @SORBONNE75)