Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Fight terrorism with Pakistan

By Han Hua (China Daily) Updated: 2011-08-12 08:05

The terrorist attacks in Kashgar on July 30 and 31 that left at least 20 people dead have prompted the media to conjecture that not all might be good with Sino-Pakistani relations.

Perhaps a statement issued by Kashgar authorities in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region made the media give a "spin" to the news. The statement said the leader of the rioters had received arms and explosives training in Pakistan-based camps of the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (or ETIM).

The media saw the statement as unusual, for China has rarely pointed a finger at Pakistan, its time-tested neighbor and friend. The accusation was all the more striking because Pakistan, whose ties with the United States have suffered a setback since the death of Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, has been trying to consolidate relations with China.

One media report even said that the statement "could hint at growing Chinese impatience with Pakistan's inability to control radical groups operating within its borders" and that the "Xinjiang violence may strain China-Pakistan relations". A section of the Western media went further, saying Pakistan would be making a mistake by relying too much on China to "get even" with the US.

It's not unusual for some media outlets to try to drive a wedge between China and Pakistan. On the other hand, others try to prove that Beijing and Islamabad are forming an alliance against Washington to take advantage of the financial and other crises that the US is facing. But such speculations are unfounded, even ridiculous, because China has reiterated that it will never join an alliance against another country or group .

Though it was unusual for China to say that the Kashgar rioters had received training in Pakistan-based ETIM camps and terrorists' activities in Xinjiang are a cause for concern, only the shortsighted would prophesy a rift between Beijing and Islamabad and overlook the solidity of Sino-Pakistani partnership.

Sino-Pakistani relations have weathered many a storm and are still going strong because they are based on mutual trust and common interests. To say that China earlier didn't know about ETIM activists receiving training in Pakistan-based camps or the ETIM-Al-Qaida connection would be amateurish.

China has known these facts and Pakistan has been cooperating with it in the fight against terrorism. In fact, Pakistan has handed over some Uygur separatists to China. The decade-long cooperation between China and Pakistan against terrorism cannot be easily broken, either by the latest Kashgar attacks or by some media outlets' designs. Keen observers could not have missed China's instant response to the attacks in Kashgar, in which the Foreign Ministry reaffirmed Pakistan as China's "firm partner against terror and religious extremism".

Besides, within hours of the Kashgar authorities' statement, Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson promised "full cooperation" to China to weed out terrorists from Pakistan. And the chief of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence visited Beijing recently, during which he must have discussed anti-terrorism and anti-separatism issues with Chinese officials.

But the Xinjiang attacks do reflect the spread of terrorism to China's frontier region, especially Xinjiang, since 2008, which China and Pakistan have to deal with urgently. Terrorist attacks in Xinjiang have increased in recent years as reflected by the several explosions in Kuqa county of Xinjiang in 2008, the death of 197 people and injury to more than 1,700 in the early July 2009 riots in Urumqi, the death of four people in a terrorist raid on a police station in Hotan in July this year, and the latest attacks in Kashgar.

Xinjiang is a strategically important region in northwest China. As China's neighbor adjoining Xinjiang and a country sharing a border with Afghanistan where Al-Qaida and Taliban have wreaked havoc, Pakistan is an important partner in China's war against terrorism. So cooperation in the fight against terrorism should be high on the Sino-Pakistani agenda.

After the Kashgar attacks, some media reports interpreted the local authorities' statement as a sign of China finally joining the "chorus of two of Pakistan's other neighbors, India and Afghanistan", that Islamabad has failed to demolish militants' camps on its soil.

But such accusations are not conducive to rooting out terrorism from the region. After all, like the US, India and China, Pakistan is also a victim of terrorism and the Pakistani government has shown its determination to fight terrorism. Osama bin Laden may be dead and NATO forces may have begun withdrawing from Afghanistan, but terrorism is far from being eliminated. That's why it is all the important to work with Pakistan to root out terrorism.

The author is an associate professor of international studies at Peking University.

(China Daily 08/12/2011 page9)

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