Ever since the Indian parliament passed the Indian Citizenship Act, also known as Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), India has been receiving waves of outright criticism not only from abroad but also from within. The bill has become extremely controversial and continues to stir huge volumes of debate over its nature, implementation and consequences. However, the Indian government under the leadership of BJP led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has strongly defended the bill claiming it to be a ‘savior’ of religious minorities residing in the neighborhood, which have often been victims of brutal religious persecution. Nevertheless, it has been predicted that this controversial bill would have grave consequences and serious fallout internationally.
One important aspect of this international fallout has already started to take root and that is the increasing anxiety for Beijing. China has been apprehensive about this recent development so much so that the Chinese leadership has become vocal about its concerns relating the controversial bill. This became evident when an anonymous Chinese official, in his talk to The Hindu, expressed his fears linked to the amended Indian citizenship law, calling it a controversial and provocative step taken by the Indian government, which would definitely have serious repercussions for China’s Xinjiang, a region well-known for having a history of violent separatist movements.
China fears that CAB can trigger an alienation drive among the various Muslim communities of the entire region and once this alienation spreads across the region, it would give rise to breeding international terrorism. As international terrorism reignites, its fumes would also engulf the already bleeding province of Xinjiang. And this is no good for China which is already taking serious steps to control volatile situation emerging in Xinjiang.
Xinjiang has become a major challenge for the Chinese government which deems it very important to keep the situation under control as any mishandling could lead to serious consequences. The province of Xinjiang, considered a ‘strategic lifeline’, is of immense significance for China. The West-East gas pipeline network, which provides gas from Central Asia to Beijing’s industrial heartland based in Shanghai and Guangdong, runs through the region. The region is the ultimate guarantor of China’s energy security. Under the Chinese initiative of Greater Bay Area plan, China requires huge amount of energy reserves in order to materialize the economic integration of Guangdong with Hong Kong and Macao. This is only possible if the energy access to Central Asia is maintained through Xinjiang.
The region also acts as a strategic choke point, because it connects China to Central Asia and the wider Europe through sophisticated network of inter-continental transportation under China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). This is important in order for China to access to central Asian and European markets which receive Chinese exports. For China to continue its pace in multifold growth of Chinese economy, is very much dependent on the degree of connectivity China avails.
Any kind of disturbance or instability in the region would impact China’s short-term and long-term objectives. As China strives to consolidate its foreign policy goals set by the president Xi Jinping, keeping Xinjiang under control has become a top-priority for Beijing. China strictly abides by the One-China principle and according to this principle, there has to be one unified China. By this principle, separate independent entities and disputed territories such as Taiwan, Tibet, Hong Kong and islands in the South China Sea have to be integrated under one China. Therefore, Beijing rejects all claims of separatist movements. In an attempt to pursue its ‘One-China’ policy, China is adamant to integrate Xinjiang thereby suppressing any separatist movements fueling in the region. It has also reacted against the East Turkestan Islamic Movement which struggles to establish ‘East Turkestan’ in Xinjiang.
The Indian Citizenship Amendment Bill has clearly aggravated China’s vulnerabilities. This bill has the potential to trigger international terrorism by marginalizing and alienating Muslims of the wider region, leading to fuel separatist movements in Xinjiang. The province of Xinjiang has huge strategic significance for China in terms of energy security, continental connectivity, pursuing geopolinomics in Central Asia and materializing the One-China policy. Any disruption, instigated by CAB, would eventually add to China’s concerns and its growing vulnerability related to Xinjiang. Moreover, CAB also indicates India’s future global ambitions as a leading South Asian player which might become problematic for China.
About The Author
Asma Siddiq is a student of International Relations at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. She is interested in Foreign Policy Analysis and Dipomacy. She blogs at Policyvet.wordpress.com
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views of Rationale-47.