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Chinese interest in Central Asia
China has common history with Central Asia. In distant past, china was linked through silk route with Central Asia and entire trade with Europe, and other regions was conducted through silk route. When Islam entered in the lives of Central Asian people the whole central Asia came under Muslim rule. In those days the region was called Turkistan and also included the area which is now a province of china, in the name of Xingjian, therefore ancient ethnic and religious links exist between China and Central Asian States. Due to common borders with Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, spread over 300 miles the in habitants on both sides remain in close contact.
In the present circumstances, the role of china may remain unpredictable to both America and Russia but it is most probable that China will be most important player in the Central Asian Region in future. Since the independence of Central Asian States in 1991 China has built close bilateral trade and investment connections to create and increase its sphere of influence. China always evolves long term policies and sticks to them until their maturity and success.
Major concern of China with regard to Central Asia has been the activities of guerillas of Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and Taliban trained uighur Islamic militants of Xinjiang province which are growing political unrest by means of guerilla activities in Chinese territories and attacks on Chinese security forces. Throughout the last decade of 20th century the main strategic aim of China was to ensure that the central Asian governments kept a tight control on the activities of uighor Islamic militants on their soil as well as keep the uighur minority living in Central Asia to help the separatist uighor militants of Xingjians province of china. In accordance with the Chinese wishes, the Central Asian governments shut down the uighur publications and offices. Moreover the uighurs which criticized the Chinese policies were arrested besides having proper control on borders to ensure that arms and funds for uighur sepatists are not allowed to reach Xinjiang.
China's other major strategic interest was to resolve hundreds of territorial disputes with Central Asian States which were inherited from the Tzarist regimes of Russia due to which the Chinese – Russian relations remained tense. During the 1990s Chinese set up joint border commission with Russia Kazakhstan and Kyrgystan and have resolved most of the disputes. However the territorial disputes with Tajikistan have not been resolved.
China has a claim on 30% of Tajikistan territory along their common border in Gorno Badakhshan where huge gold deposits have been found. In order to settle the territorial disputes China had taken its most significant step in Central Asia by convening a summit meeting in 1996 in Shangi of 5 states which share common borders i.e, China, Russia, Tajikistan Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. As a result of this summit meeting a process of de-militanisation and demarcation of borders started which was a major break through. More over an 80 miles vide transparency zone was also created and joint military patrols were proposed to be arranged. The main outcome of the summit meeting was the formation of Shanghai-5 which became a permanent group having summit meetings every year. With the passage of time the Shanghai – 5 became a wide ranging military, security and economic pact when the annual summit meeting of Shanghai – 5 was held in Bishket, the capital of Kyrgyzstan in 1999, the guerillas of Islamic movement of Uzbekistan attacked Kyrgyzstan and made four geologists of Japan as hostages. The host presidents. Akayev had to face a huge embanassment. That summit meeting became a forum for discussion regarding threat of Islamic militants, drugs and weapons which were spreading from Afghanistan and de – stabilizing Central Asian State.When the summit meeting ended, a joint declaration was issued after the signatures of five leaders in which it was agreed to enhance co-operation in fighting international terrorism, illegal drug trade, arms trafficking, illegal migration, separatism and religious extremism. It was also pledged to create a multipolar world at the suggestion of Russia to check American efforts of hegemony. Besides the summit meeting Chinese president Jiang Zemin and Russian president Bons yeltsin also arranged a breakfast meeting to broaden strategic partnership between china and Russia were discussed. The out come of the meeting has a clear message for the world that China, Russia and Central Asian States consider the radical Islam as common threat and to counter it they are prepared to set aside all their differences. It was the first time when the Central Asian States sought Chinese military help to combat guerillas of Islamic movement of Uzbekistan.
In the Summit meeting of Shanghi – 5 held at Dushanbe Uzbekistan was given observer status although it had no common border with China. As such Shanghai – 5 converted into Shanghai forum. In this summit meeting it was decided for the first time to add a military dimension to the frame work. It was also decided to create a joint centre to counter terrorism to be stationed at Bishket Kyrgyzstan, so that the threat emanating from Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and Talibans of Afghanistan may be countered. Gradually this forum had became the most important geo strategic alliance of the region by drawing joint programmes for security, economic reforms political settlements and other agendas of significance. Many nearby countries like Pakistan, India, Mongolia, South Korea and Iran made efforts to join the forum where as Uzbekistan stressed for obtaining full membership. Next summit meeting was held in Jun 2001 in which the requests of these countries were considered. 29 Bu consensus full membership was allowed to Uzbekistan while the requests of other countries were declined. The forum again changed its name as Shanghai co-operation organization. The leaders of the member countries signed a new security co-operation pact and pledged to increase trade and investment between the member countries. However the main concern of the participants remained the same which the host president Jiang Zemin said after the new pact was sighed that joint efforts will be made to fight against the forces of terrorism, separatism and extremism. The leaders pledged to speed up the development and working at anti terrorism centre at Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan.
mean time China had started to provide military aid to Central Asian States to enable them to fight against Islamic movement of Uzbekistan. During the years 2000 and 2001 china provided the technical and military assistance of the worth 1.3 million dollars each. Then china also agreed to provide funds for constructing of bunkers and houses for border guards of Kyrgyzstan. China was providing assistance to Central Asian States to fight with Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, because it was confirmed that Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan was undertaking recruiting and training of Uighurs in their camps functioning in Northern Afghanistan. As the Uighurs in Xinjeang were already fighting against China therefore China was convinced that this trans – national threat can not be stopped or controlled at Xinjiang and it was necessary to destroy the puresat organizations of Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and Talibans of Afghanistan. In fact the militant Uighurs were already involve in fighting Islamic Jehads in 1980s by traveling to Pakistan to help Afghan Mujahideans in the war against Russia. So it was in the common interest that appropriate steps be taken to eradicate the roots of terrorism by joint efforts.
Hundreds of the Uighurs began to study in Pakistan Madrasas and got battle skills in Afghanistan by joining Talibans. Several Uighur fighters were capture in Afghanistan by Russian Aided forces after which China and Pakistan stressed upon Talibans to remove Uighurs from the Kabul front. The Talibans handed over the services of Uighurs to Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan so that they may deny that they are hosting Uighor fighters.
Chinese policy in Central Asia is intended to up hold political stability through economic growth. China has the transport links to offer the access links to Central Asian States which they so badly need. China has also ambitious programmes for road and pipeline constructions which will free the Central Asian States from dependence on Russia to a great extent. The Chinese connection with central Asia has resulted in dramatic surges in association of people, goods and services. When the prime minister of China Li. Peng visited Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan in April 1994, he reached an accord with Turkmenistan's president Niyazov for feasibility studies of a new rail road across central Asia and a 20 billion dollar pipeline project that will take central Asian oil to china. When these projects will be completed, this transcontinental route will be comparable with Suez and panama.
China hopes to use Central Asian market as a catalyst to fuel a new prosperity zone in Xinjiang for foreign investment and revive the silk route to extend Chinese economic interest beyond central Asia to Europe and Persian Gulf markets. China expects economic growth in Xinjiang and Central Asia to strengthen the secular minded government of Central Asian states against those groups which favour Islamic governments. To achieve the objective, China has enacted a series of reforms to boost Xinjiang so that economic take off of Central Asia may be possible. In 1992 China granted Aroomchi (the capital of Xinjiang) the same right to conduct prefential trade policies which have been granted to coastal regions.
China quickly moved to establish ties with Central Asian States, when they got independence. Kazakhstan and China signed agreements in 1992 in the areas of trade communication, transport, scientific and technical co-operation, personal exchanges and establishment of a joint committee for the development of further ties. China also extended credit equivalent to 5.7 million dollars to Kyrgyzstan and exported food, clothing, electronics and other consumer goods. China also provided credit of 5 million yuons to Tajikistan to buy Chinese food and consumer goods besides providing grant of 500,000 dollars in the shape of food and humanitarian aid. China and Uzbekistan also signed ten co-operative agreements for further economic projects like joint ventures in trade and industry.
Stability in Central Asia is essential for China because China is importer of cured oil. The huge Chinese industry depends upon stable energy resources, domestic stability and constant economic growth. Central Asian states possess sufficient oil fields comparable with Middle East. If the Chinese project of pipeline is completed as desired, the importance of central Asia to china will increase manifolds
Kyrgyzstan: Central Asia keystone
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