Political Developments - October 2018

According to a UN Report, over a million people are allegedly being held in a secretive network of extrajudicial, political re-education centres in Xinjiang region of China. Several thousand of the 1.5 million Kazakhs who live in Xinjiang are interned in such camps. Unlike Uighurs, many of whom face cultural and religious repression, Kazakhs had long moved freely between China and their country. That freedom disappeared recently. Kazakh nationals with relatives missing in Xinjiang have been forthright in expressing anxiety. In recent months, Kazakhstan risked China’s wrath by refusing to deport Sauytbay, an ethnic Kazakh woman of Chinese citizenship, who confessed to crossing the border illegally to join her family. Dependent on China’s economic largesse and seeking a pivotal role in its trillion-dollar trade and Belt-Road infrastructure initiative, Kazakhstan is reluctant to make inconvenient demands.

Kazakhstan has refused to grant asylum to Sauytbay, the ethnic Kazakh-Chinese national, who has spoken out against her work in Chinese internment camps for ethnic Muslims. It is expected that appeal will be filed against the decision. There is mounting pressure from public to protect fellow Kazakhs in China's Xinjiang region. China has broadly denied such allegations, claiming a "great tragedy" has been averted in Xinjiang. Beijing has said Xinjiang faces a serious threat from Islamist militants and separatists who plot attacks and stir up tensions between Uyghurs and Chinese.

First joint meeting of Ministers of Internal Affairs of 4 Central Asian states - Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan - was held in Kyrgyzstan. Meeting was held in this format for the first time to build regional cooperation, renew and intensify friendly and good neighborly relations. Discussions on fight against organized crime, drug and weapons trafficking, international terrorism, cyber extremism and cyber terrorism as well as ensuring public security in border areas were held.

There are nearly 3,000 Central Asian militants that have been trained to fight in Syria and Iraq either as ISIS affiliated (mainly Tajik and Kazakh fighters) or in Qaedist al-Nusra Front (mainly Uzbek and Kyrgyz fighters). Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and Jamaat Ansarullah terrorist groups were both established in Central Asia.

Interaction-2018 drills of CSTO Collective Rapid Reaction Forces took place in Kyrgyzstan. They involved more than 1,600 troops from six countries: Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan, and also about 300 pieces of military hardware and 40 aircrafts and helicopters.

Head of Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Anti-Terrorism Center stated that IS is establishing a new foothold in region to form a new "caliphate" while planting new sleeper cells and invigorating existing ones.

He said the group was currently recruiting, training and reactivating armed cells in Europe, Central Asia, Southeast Asia and Russia. IS has recruited many Pashtuns, Tajiks, and Uzbeks since starting its Khorasan affiliate.

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About the Author

Ambassador Ashok Sajjanhar

Former Ambassador of India to Kazakhstan, Sweden and Latvia; President, Institute of Global Studies and Distinguished Fellow, Ananta Centre

Ambassador Ashok Sajjanhar belongs to the Indian Foreign Service and has acquitted his responsibilities in the diplomatic service for 34 years. He was Ambassador of India to Kazakhstan, Sweden and Latvia and has worked in senior diplomatic positions in Indian Embassies/Missions in Washington DC, Brussels, Moscow, Geneva, Tehran, Dhaka and Bangkok and also at Headquarters in India. He negotiated for India in the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations and in negotiations for India-EU, India-ASEAN and India-Thailand Free Trade Agreements.

He contributed significantly to strengthening strategic ties and promoting cultural cooperation between India and USA, EU, Russia and other countries.Ambassador Sajjanhar worked as head of National Foundation for Communal Harmony to promote amity and understanding between different religions, faiths and beliefs. Ambassador Sajjanhar has been decorated by Governments of Kazakhstan and Latvia with their National Awards and by Universal Peace Federation with Title of ''Ambassador of Peace.'' Currently Ambassador Sajjanhar is President of Institute of Global Studies, New Delhi. He writes, travels and speaks extensively on issues relating to international relations, foreign policy and themes of contemporary relevance and significance. He appears widely on TV panel discussions. Ambassador Sajjanhar is interested in reading, music and travelling. His wife Madhu is an economist and an educationist. They have a son and a daughter both of who are accomplished singers. Their son passed out of Yale University and their daughter is pursuing her PhD at University of Minnesota.