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Russia, China, Central Asian states reinforce co-operation against Islam

M.S. Ahmed

The presidents of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan met in Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan, on June 16 to reinforce their alliance against Islamic activism in the region...

The presidents of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan met in Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan, on June 16 to reinforce their alliance against Islamic activism in the region. Another purpose was to strengthen their international bargaining power to secure the cooperation – or at least the indifference – of other countries and the UN. The presidents of Afghanistan and Mongolia were invited to the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Tashkent to give the results of their deliberations a wider regional validity. The SCO’s anti-Islam campaign, thinly disguised as a ‘war against terrorism’, is driven mainly by Russia, China and Uzbekistan. But the other three members of the Organisation are also declared enemies of Islamic activism and cooperate fully with the ‘war on terrorism’.

China’s main concern is the continuing, although internationally ignored, struggle for self-determination of the Muslims of Xinjiang (also known as East Turkestan) in the west of the country. Russia, which is trying to quell a similar struggle in Chechnya, is equally concerned, while the Uzbek authorities take very seriously the increasing opposition of the country’s Islamic movement to their corrupt and coercive rule. The rulers of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are also aware that the rise of Islamic activism in recent years poses at least a potential threat to their business interests and political careers. The Kazakh city of Stan, for instance, hosted a similar "security meeting" of former states of the Soviet Union in the same week. Both Moscow and Beijing are keen to portray their brutal attempts to suppress the struggles of the Muslims of Chechnya and Xinjiang as part of the war on ‘terrorism’.

At the Tashkent summit the Chinese gave full prominence to their usual line, that "we must fight the three evils of terrorism, extremism and separatism". Beijing, Moscow and Tashkent have already used brutal force to "combat these evils". Mass trials and executions of activists are the norm in Xinjiang. In Uzbekistan there are an estimated 7,000 political prisoners, and the slightly more widely reported abuses in Chechnya, including disappearances, continue unabated. The main task of the summit was to portray the separate struggles as linked aspects of international terrorism that are financed, and armed, by ‘terrorist organisations’ in Muslim countries, and to take the necessary action to isolate and defeat them.

According to Vitali V. Fen, Uzbekistan’s ambassador to South Korea, the SCO "puts special emphasis on the prevention of new generation threats, namely terrorism, extremism, separatism and drug-related violence, and on the prospects for cooperation in fighting weapons smuggling, the transfer of weapons of mass destruction, mercenary activities and the movement of illegal funds as well as on issues related to migration, including that of labour." Writing what he called "a message" in the Korea Times, he added that "cooperation between the SCO’s member states in these spheres was raised to a new level, and a political and legal basis for fighting current problems was created during the Tashkent summit." Part of that "legal basis" are the agreements adopted on cooperation in the economic and security fields and on expanding contacts with other organisations, such as the UN and the CIS. But the main focus was on security issues, and the summit agreed to open an "anti-terror centre" in Tashkent that will coordinate intelligence-sharing and other "anti-terror" activities. The intelligence-sharing will not be confined to member-states, but be extended to countries and organisations that are committed to "the prevention of new-generation threats" listed by the Uzbek ambassador as being at the heart of the SCO programme.

Among those presidents expressing satisfaction at the summit’s success was Vladimir Putin, who felt confident that the SCO had "the potential to become a key part of the global anti-terrorism coalition". Putin has been very keen to create the impression that his war on the Chechen people and the imposition on them of unwanted rulers who are loyal to him is part of the war against international terrorism. At the concurrent summit of the former Soviet states, held in Slan, he described the Chechen resistance as being allied to al-Qa’ida. He even jumped to the defence of US president Bush, saying that even before September 2001 Saddam Hussein had been helping al-Qa’ida to mount terrorist attacks against American targets, adding that he had supplied intelligence to Washington to that effect. Bush has been attacked for claiming false that there was a link between Saddam and al-Qa’ida.

But whatever satisfaction Putin felt at Tashkent must have vanished after the attacks launched into Ingushetia from Chechnya, despite the presence of tens of thousands of Russian troops in both countries. The attackers seized the interior ministry headquarters and other buildings. There were also similar attacks on two cities. Both the Russian and Ingush leaders have expressed fears that the war in Chechnya will spread to Ingushetia, which is a Muslim autonomous region of the Russian federation. Putin publicly ordered that the attackers should be arrested, in a statement showing him as a beleaguered ruler, very different from the one who had gloated over the Tashkent summit success. The assassination of Ahmed Kadyrov on May 9, the Kremlin-appointed Chechen president, had already exposed Putin’s claim that the war in Chechnya was over.

But the failure of Moscow and Beijing to defeat the resistance in Chechnya and Xinjiang must not be allowed to disguise the fact that the Muslims of both regions are in the grip of a horrific ordeal, and that they need assistance from Muslims elsewhere. It is inexcusable that the recent meeting of the OIC did not even mention the war crimes being committed against fellow Muslims in these regions, let alone offer at least diplomatic and economic assistance.

Article from

Crescent International Vol. 33, No. 5

Jumada' al-Ula' 13, 14252004-07-01

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