Prakash KatochE-Mail- .
The simplest way of becoming a super power is to emulate a super power and that is what China has been doing; following everything that US did. Studying the 1991 Gulf War, Chinese realised PLA needed urgent reform. Chairman Jiang Zemin officially declared Revolution in Military Affairs part of China’s Military Strategy in 1993, himself taking charge of its implementation. Then was America’s Kosovo War and invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. By studying US/NATO operations, China launched a vigorous programme for ‘informisation’ of PLA entailing development of net-centric and knowledge based capability to launch ‘effect based’ operations against a high-technology modernised adversary.
For bridging the technology gaps, spying, snooping and reverse engineering gave China designs of the US F-I6, Bl Bomber, US Navy's quiet electric drive, US W-88 miniaturised nuke used in Trident Missiles, to name a few. Providence also helped in unexploded US cruise missiles landing in Pakistan, remains of the MH-60M Black Hawk stealth helicopter that crashed during the Abbottabad raid and the US RQ-1Z0 stealth UAV downed by Iran. Stealth technologies were stolen not only through cyber-attacks on US defence firms but also by physically penetrating the Federal Bureau of Investigation. China thus developed the J-20 stealth fighter in record time and stealth helicopters, stealth vessels and aircraft carrier are under development.
In the heat of cloning the US, China also went full hilt in emulating America’s ‘dirty war’; arming, supporting and using terrorist organisations, not that it was without previous experience in this field. The PLA trained and supported Afghan Mujahedeen during Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, supplying hundreds of millions worth of anti-aircraft missiles, rocket launchers and machine guns, moving their training camps on Chinese soil. As the US was invading Afghanistan, China was already training and arming the Taliban. Earlier too, China had been sprouting ideological extremism globally through Maoists movements in Nepal, Burma, Philippines, Cambodia, Japan and Peru. China is also actively supporting Maoists in India by providing arms, communication equipment and even arms manufacturing capability. Akin to the US arming the Al Qaeda and using them as proxy in Libya and Syria, China has heavily armed the United State Wa Army in Myanmar to buffer her strategic interests in the region.
It is apparent that the China-Pakistan terror nexus actually goes back to the era of Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, even as the US was assisting Pakistan in arming the Taliban. It may not be possible to accurately pinpoint whether it was China or the US, or combination of the two that germinated the very idea of Taliban in Pakistan. Significantly, the book by FS Aijazuddin titled ‘From a Head, Through a Head, To a Head’, which discloses Chou-en-Lai advising Ayub Khan in 1960’s to raise irregular forces for fighting in India’s backyard, is subtitled ‘The Secret Channel between US and China through Pakistan’. Since rules and regulations are impossible in ‘dirty wars’, friends and foes interchange as per convenience. Financing the 9/11 terrorist attack was traced back to Pakistan but the military precision with which the attacks were executed really cannot rule out whether the planners had Pakistani and/ or Chinese advice, which may be CIA’s best kept secret.
China would have viewed the 9/11 attack with glee and studied organisation and effectiveness of US homeland security in the aftermath, Boston bombings notwithstanding. This apparently makes China believe it can continue to play her proxies in conjunction with Pakistan with impunity. Decades old terror bonds with Pakistan would have made China overlook any Pakistani hand in the 9/11 attack. Then is the belief that when Pakistan is assuring US it would not let her proxies attack US mainland, the guarantee to China would be thrice strong considering the ‘higher than mountains, deeper than the ocean’ friendship. And finally, is the belief that since Pakistan has ceded Shaksgam, leased out Gilgit-Baltistan, handed over Gwadar, is on anvil of subletting/ leasing out Baluchistan, China is completely safe with its growing military and economic clout having supplied nuclear technology, weapon systems and military hardware to Pakistan. That the chickens have come home to roost in Pakistan is of little significance. But in drawing simile from security of mainland US, China appears to have missed out that US did not have any Xinjiang, Tibet or Inner Mongolia to start with.
China’s friendship with Pakistan also appears to have obscured the fact that Pakistan, as the mother of terrorism, continues to spawn radicals at frightening pace. What is even more important for China to realise is the fact that radical Islamist forces are all interlinked and their concept of jihad is global, where national boundaries do not matter. Terrorists do not care whether China’s comprehensive national power is catching up with USA or will surpass it. All these years the US was content that LeT is only India centric and permitted it to grow. But today, the LeT has turned to global jihad, threatening USA as well.
Repeated crackdowns on Uighurs and dealing iron fists in Xinjiang will hardly work for China where at least 200 Uighurs have been killed and hundreds vanished over the years. But times are different now. Repeats of the police round up and execution of 30 suspected separatists during Ramadan in February 1997 will worsen the situation. In the crackdown in June 2013, 27 were killed and three injured. Rebiya Kadeer, heading World Uighur Congress speaking in Tokyo on 20 June 2013, spoke of ethnic cleansing by PLA; 43 men and boys having been spirited away never heard of again. Uighurs are not benign as monks of Tibet who vent their frustration through self-immolation. Neither will Uighurs take the demographic invasion by Han Chinese lightly, unlike in Tibet where six million Tibetans have been overwhelmed by the silent demographic invasion of seven million Han Chinese.
The abduction of three Chinese national in Pakistan during 2007 forced Musharraf to take action against the terrorist hub of Lal Qila in Islamabad under Chinese pressure. In May 2011, Chinese technicians narrowly escaped the terrorist attack on the Mehran Naval Air Base, for which Pakistani military claimed credit. So everything was hunky-dory till now. However, on 23 June 2013, terrorists attacked the western base camp of Nanga Parbat in Pakistan killing nine foreign tourists including three Chinese. Ejaz Haider wrote in The Express Tribune on 26 June 2013 that the attackers were 10-14 in number but did not touch belongings of any tourists. How so many armed terrorists could go undetected in an area which has large covert and overt presence of intelligence personnel and informers is still being examined. Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack. This is unlikely to be an isolated incident as Taliban have announced their newly set up wing (Junood ul-Hifsa) will continue to attack foreigners. If China still feels they can convince the Taliban to spare Chinese national, one can continue fooling oneself. Factually, China has too many soft targets all over the world and with its python like silent demographic invasion, many more Junood ul-Hifsa like outfits may come up. It would be prudent for China to quit dirtying her hands with terror. China will definitely discuss terror with Nawaz Sharif during his five day visit to Beijing but Nawaz is a puppet Prime Minister. The sham democracy in Pakistan is apparent with Pakistan’s Punjab (constituency of Nawaz Sharif) officially doling out financial support to JuD-LeT. Then you also have best friend Pakistan not able to find the 600 strong special unit of East Turkistan Islamic Movement (Etim) hiding inside Pakistan. China needs to take the cue. The chickens are coming home to roost. The cockerels are eyeing China already.
Prakash Katoch is a veteran Special Forces Lieutenant General.
Views expressed are personal