Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Is there a 'Kashmir' in China?

Recently Mr.S.Gurumurthy wrote an article in the New Indian Express comparing India's Kashmir problem with that of Islamic insurgency in China. The article titled " A tale of two Kashmirs made me think about the different aspects of the problems faced by two of the World's most populous Nations. Here are some excerpts from the article [in orange]and my thoughts [in black]about it.

That China too has its Kashmir and problems with Islamist separatists identical to India’s Kashmir is not widely known. ‘Xinjiang’, actually pronounced as ‘Sinkiang’ for postal purposes, is China’s Kashmir. Xinjiang actually shares borders with Ladakh in India’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. India’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 India’s Kashmir, some 1,45,000 sq km, is less than one hundredth of Xinjiang. So China’s Kashmir is physically 100 times bigger than India’s and therefore its problem too is bigger. Yet many do not know about it.

Here Mr Gurumurthy is claiming that as the area of Xinjiang is physically 100 times bigger than the area of Kashmir the problem of insurgency is/was also bigger. Is this true? Gurumuthy has not given any such indication in his article.

Let us look back at the history of the origin of Kashmir conflict.
The Kashmir Conflict arises from the Partition of India in 1947 into modern India and Pakistan. Both the countries have made claims to Kashmir, based on historical reasons and religious affiliations of the Kashmiri people. The state of Jammu and Kashmir, which lies strategically in the Northwest of the subcontinent, , was a princely state with a majority Muslim population,ruled by Hindu King,Maharaja Hari Singh, under the paramountcy of British India. In geographical and legal terms, the Maharaja could have joined either of the two new Dominions. The Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten urged the Maharaja, to determine the future of his state before the transfer of power took place, but Hari Singh delayed his decision.. In October 1947, Pakistani tribals with help of the Army entered Kashmir intending to liberate it from Hari Singh's rule. Unable to withstand the invasion, the Maharaja signed The Instrument of Accession with India.

The resulting war over Kashmir, between India and Pakistan, lasted until 1948, when India moved the issue to the UN Security Council. UN Security Council passed Resolution 47 on April 21, 1948. The resolution imposed that an immediate cease-fire take place and said that Pakistan should withdraw all presence and had no say in Jammu and Kashmir politics. It stated that India should retain a minimum military presence and stated "that the final disposition of the State of Jammu and Kashmir will be made in accordance with the will of the people expressed through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite conducted under the auspices of the United Nations". At that time, the Indian and Pakistani governments agreed to hold the plebiscite but Pakistan did not withdraw its troops from Kashmir thus violating the condition for holding the plebiscite. India also did not want a Plebiscite. Plebiscite never happened and the dispute is continuing.

Xinjiang never had similar history. There was never a partition of China as it became independent like the way that happened in Indian sub continent. Several Chinese dynasties had ruled over the area.Many a time local leaders had declared independence but their attempts were short lived.After Chinese revolution and making of Xinjiang an autonomous province of People's Republic no other Country made any claim for the territory. Sporadic separatist protests were there but were put down by the autocratic Government with an iron hand.
So to say that China's Xinjiang 'problem' is similar to and is much bigger than India's Kashmir conflict is according to me not true.

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 province’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.

An issue becomes International when there is a dispute between two Nations that could not be solved bilaterally. So the Kashmir conflict was always an International issue. India did take it to the UN with the belief that UN will readily uphold India's rights to the territory of Kashmir.That did not happen and in retrospect the decision to take it to UN may have been wrong. But to say that India's action was the sole reason for the issue becoming International is far from the truth.In case of Xinjiang there was only an internal separatist movement.So chances of it becoming International was/is less.

China did change the ethnic and religious demography of Xinjiang so that the Han Chinese became a dominant force. They could do it deliberately because of the autocratic functioning of the Chinese Government. They do not have democracy nor the Judiciary is independent of the Government.In contrast India had a functioning democracy almost all the time after Independence expect during the Emergency.

When the Kashmir Constituent Assembly ratified the Indian Constitution and the union to India,Article 370 was a pre-condition for such ratification.Any violation of fundamental rights assured by our Constitution could be questioned in our Courts.So deliberate changing of demographics is not possible anywhere in a country like India,more so in Kashmir.But the whole article never mentions this important difference between India's Kashmir and China.

Actually India is trying to defend Kashmir with the help of secular and moderate Kashmiris with Army protecting them,unlike in China were Han Chinese from other provinces are displacing the Uighurs with the help of brute force of Chinese Army. Which is better?

Should article 370 be repealed? As per the current constitutional provisions it can be done only with the concurrence of the Kashmir Government. If there is such a concurrence it will good to repeal it for proper integration Kashmir to India.

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.

May be Gurumurthy,who is a well known opponent of Emergency Rule of 1975-1977 must have lost his belief in Democracy. He wants India to conquer Kashmir back without the consent of its inhabitants. Will conquering really integrate it to India,or increase the support for separatist movement? Will it prevent wars with Pakistan or increase the chance of war? Will it reduce jihadi terrorism or increase it? Gurumurthy seems to be deliberately closing his eyes to the reality.


  1. I agree with you when you say the problems faced by China and India are different...The unrest in Xinjiang has been brought upon the Chinese by their policies...In fact, the problems there are similar to the problems faced by Tibetans...

    Have you noticed that no Mullah has issued a fatwa against the Chinese government for atrocities committed against the Uighurs? The only person to raise a voice was the Turkish PM...This is because the Uighurs practice a moderate kind of Islam which is not what the Mullahs preach...They are probably not considered 'true Muslims' by the fundamentalists...

  2. Yes Bomes, the problems are different and the way the Indian and Chinese Govts tackled the problems are also different primarily due to the presence of Democratic system in India.
    What you said is correct.Uighurs do not seem to have that much support among Islamists.But there is an attempt to create broad based Islamist insurgency in Central Asian Republics,Russia and China by the Taliban

  3. This was informative and very interesting!

    I agree with you (and Bones)the problems are different, and I think India is handling it democratically, which is only correct... but I wish it was possible to change the demographics of the place and truly integrate it ... :(

  4. Charakan, this is an interesting comparison. Although they share some external similarities, fundamentally India and China are two very different kinds of nations,

    Here is the first line of the Indian Constitution,

    'India that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States'.

    And here is the first line of China's,

    'The People's Republic of China is a socialist state under the people's democratic dictatorship'

    So in some sense the Constitution acknowledges that India was created by the coming together of different political entities, one of which was Kashmir.

    Whereas, the PRC seems to be a very majoritarian state and comparisons to it here are simplistic.

    To resolve Kashmir, the rest of India needs to win the trust of Kashmiris, not engage in some sort of ethnic replacement.

  5. IHM, Indian State by and large has tried to uphold the principles of democracy and secularism in Kashmir.My feeling is Kashmir valley is very much influenced by the Islamist politics of Pakistan and the saffron politics of the Jammu region and the rest of India. Unless these politics undergo fundamental change Kashmir's complete integration will be always difficult. Wish to integrate is good, but the 'hindu' Indian's wish to change the demography is the primary fear of Kashmiris which resulted in article 370. [Gurumurthy you know is a main ideologue of saffron politics].

    Read Basharath Peer's 'Curfewed Nights' to get better perspective about Kashmir from a Kashmiri journalist.

  6. Vikram,welcome here. The foundations of the two countries are entirely different.The author of the article know that very well but is deliberately closing the eyes to it for the cause of saffron politics.
    Yes the mind of Kashmiris have to be won and not the land.

  7. Charakan, I had not read IHMs comment previously. But if a person like her feels sad about not being able to change the demography of a place I dont know what kind of future India has. I cant believe how poorly many of us understand the idea of India. The middle class especially has very a territorially possessive nationalism, high on nationalism as consumption and low on nationalism as values.

  8. Vikram, such a romantic hope of a fully integrated Kashmir with the Pandits returning back and leaving peacefully with the Muslims both in the valley and Jammu is of most Indians. Unfortunately the ground reality do not justify such a hope in the near future.

  9. Yes its true that the situation is different in both the cases...but i will like to tell all that although our constitution is federal ... the national interest takes priority....that our constitution makers also know.... all talk abot winning the heart..why not to win heart of thousands of uniformed personnel dying there......If india is sovereign then it must take its own decision .. rather taking it yo third party...my view is win land and then win hearts


Comments are welcome especially if you do not think like me. But anonymous comments behind masks and those not relevant to the post are not encouraged.