Three Forces Gang Up in Central Aisa
Islamic extremists,ethnic separatists and international terrorists in Central Asia have combined with each other to constitute a threat to this region’s security and stability.
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Islam in Central Asia went through two stages. The period from 1991 to 1996 saw a comprehensive rejuvenation. After 1997, with rejuvenated Islam, particularly Taliban in Afghanistan, getting the upper hand, Islamic extremist forces began to manifest themselves and launched challenges to the regimes of secular countries. At the same time, the tendency of Islamic forces to combine with ethnic separatists and international terrorists appeared. In recent years, violent actions launched by religious extremist forces have continuously taken place in the Central Asian countries.
At present, Islamic extremist activities in Central Asia have the features: (1) Their scale has expanded from Tajikistan into Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, indicating their growth from a small into a large force and from an individual point to a wider area. They have ties with Afghan and Chechen Islamic extremist forces, which give the movement an international character. (2) The religious extremists have adopted more and more violent means, attacking government officials, including judicial personnel. Their purpose is to usurp political power. (3) The extremists gather the majority of their supporters from the young, which is different from other religions where middle-aged and elderly people are the majoirty of devout believers. (4) Islamic extremist forces tend to form contacts with anti-government factions and ethnic separatist forces in their own countries and with international terrorists.
Influencing the Geopolitical Pattern
The furious activities of religious extremist forces have already impacted political stability and economic development in the Central Asian region and, at the same time, caused a slight change in the geopolitical situation. The long civil war caused by the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan has led to worries in other Central Asian countries. For the past two or three years, incidents in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan have created a tense atmosphere in these two countries. At present, the expansion of religious extremist forces and their increasingly violent criminal activities threaten regional security, peace and stability.
More than five years of civil war in Tajikistan have caused the deaths of more than 60,000 people, seen 800,000 people turned into refugees, and caused economic losses of US$10 billion. The act of kidnapping hostages in
Kyrgyzstan has made more than 5,000 refugees homeless. In addition, the strict preventive measures taken by some Central Asian countries have influenced foreign investment and regular international exchanges.
Subtle Change in Geopolitics
Uzbekistan, which wanted to move out of Russia’s shadow and gravitated towards the West for a long period, has used the opportunity of jointly dealing with religious extremist forces to renew close ties with Russia. In October 1998, Uzbekistan, Russia and Tajikistan united to attack religious extremism. In November 1999 and in April of this year the five regional members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), including Russia, held joint military exercises in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan respectively.
While attacking religious extremist forces, the Central Asian countries have both cooperated and quarreled. Uzbekistan expressed dissatisfaction with Tajikistan over insufficiently suppressing bandits, and blockaded it borders with Kazakhastan and Kyrgyzstan for the sake of its own security. This has influenced normal economic exchange, and aroused displeasure from Kazakhstan. In addition, Turkey refused to extredite Uzbek terrorists to Uzbekistan. The Uzbek Government recalled its students from Turkey and closed down a Turkish-run school in Uzbekistan in portest. Relations betwen Uzbekistan and Turkey are tense.
Cooperation Between China and Central Asia
China’s northwestern region is adjacent to Central Asia. If the activities of religious extremist forces in Central Asia are not effectively contained and if the Islamic forces in Afghanistan and Chechnya continue to infiltrate into Central Asia, ‘‘green’’ (Ismalic) extremist forces in this region will surely grow bolder. This would not only severely threaten peace and stability in this region, but also threaten political stability and economic devlopment in northwest China.
In recent years, the Chinese and Central Asian governments have paid great deal of attention to the activities of religious extremist forces, ethnic separatists and international terrorists and reached a consensus to oppose these three gangs. The Dushanbe Statement issued by the fifth summit of the ‘‘Shanghai Five’’ in July this year and the joint statement issued by the two sides when President Jiang Zemin visited Turkemenistan reafirmed the commitment to take practical measures to effectively attack these three gangs. Through the joint efforts of China, the Central Asian countries and the CIS countries, these three gangs will be effectively contained.
[ Source : Beijing Review ]
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