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Xinjiang Tales: My Travel Gave Me Reasons to Repose Faith in Indo-China Bonhomie

Partnership with Xinjiang will not only bring economic benefits to India but also important perks in the long run.

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(This is Part 1 of a three-part series on the author's recent extensive travels in Xinjiang, China's only predominantly Muslim province and his observations on where the Indo-China ties currently stand, independent of the Western view.)

The land of legends going back to the mists of time. Where the cultures and civilisations of China, India, Central Asia, and West Asia had a rendezvous centuries ago. Where many religions ─ Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Manichaeism, Nestorian Christianity, Islam ─ and numerous ethnicities ─ Uyghurs, Hans, Kazaks, Uzbeks, Tibetans, Huis, Pamiri Tajiks, Russians and Mongols ─ had an enriching confluence. Where the hot sands of the Taklamakan desert hide as many mysteries as the adjoining snowy peaks of the Tian Shan mountains. Where melons are the sweetest in the world, but sweeter still is the folk song-and-dance ensemble of the Twelve Muqam, recognised by UNESCO as a precious intangible heritage of humanity.

Xinjiang literally means 'New Frontier’. Not long ago, this westernmost and once most underdeveloped province of China seemed far away from Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and other symbols of Chinese wealth and power.

However, now it is becoming a new frontier of prosperity not only for China but also for the vast neighbouring landmass of Central, West, and South Asia.
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India would be a loser if it continued to isolate itself from the enormous opportunities of regional connectivity and cooperation now being incubated in Xinjiang. Partnership with this region of China will not only bring economic benefits to India. Rather, and this is far more important for India in the long run, it can also contribute to revitalisation of and harmony among Asian civilisations.

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Xinjiang Was Once a "Small India”

My visit to Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in June this year was a dream come true. (Uyghurs, most of whom are Sunni Muslim, form nearly half of Xinjiang’s 25 million population.) The place had fascinated me for long for several reasons.

The first, and most important, was to know about the historical linkages between Xinjiang and India, a subject not adequately researched by Indians and certainly not widely known in our country. Xinjiang was one of the two routes through which Buddhism spread from India to China in the 1st Century BC, the other being a maritime route in the East.

So widespread was India’s influence in the region in the first millennium that a Chinese government publication on the history of art and culture in the region described Xinjiang of that period as "A Small India”.
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Two names had ignited my interest in this subject ─ Hiuen Tsang or Xuan Zang (also known by his Sanskrit name Mokshadeva) and Kumarajiva.

Most Indians have learnt about Hiuen Tsang in their history class during school years. They have admired this intrepid Chinese traveler who came to India in the 7th century to study Buddhism and who, after an epic mostly-on-foot journey of 17 years and 16,000 kms, became the most celebrated guru of the Buddha’s teachings in China.

The classic Chinese novel Journey to the West narrates the story of Xuan Zhang. Several Chinese scholars believe that the Monkey King (‘Sun Wukong’), a popular character in this novel, was inspired by 'Hanuman' from the Indian epic Ramayana.
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Cultural Links Between India and China

In contrast, not many Indians have heard of Kumarajiva, the 4th century scholar-monk, the son of a Kashmiri Pandit married to the princess of a kingdom in Kucha (in Xinjiang). The many Buddhist sutras he translated from Sanskrit into Chinese are highly revered in China even today. His life and achievements would make for a gripping movie, and it would go a long way to promote India-China affinity.

Part of the reason for the close historical linkages between India and Xinjiang ─ India had a consulate in Kashgar, the most famous city in the province, until as late as 1950 ─ is also their geographical proximity.

A look at the map would show that Kashgar and Khotan (another historic city in Xinjiang on the edge of the Taklamakan desert) are not very far from Kashmir and Ladakh.
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The large Tarim Basin, which lies below the Tian Shan mountain range and forms the southern half of the province (known in Chinese as Nanjiang or 'Southern Xinjiang') had strong Indo-Persian cultural influences that also extended to Kashmir.

Traces of Hindu art and Sanskrit language can be found in the entire Tarim Basin and beyond.
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Here is a more recent fact that drives home the point. Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO), an Indian military base in Ladakh in the Karakoram mountains, made national news after the India-China standoff in June 2020. It means ‘the spot where the rich man died’, and derives its name from a 16th-century ruler of a part of Xinjiang who died at this place while on an expedition from Kashgar to Ladakh.

The second reason behind my interest in visiting Xinjiang was that it is the only predominantly Muslim province in China. What is the status of Islam and Muslims in this province? Why is China pursuing a policy of Sinicisation of Islam? Specifically, I also wanted to know: Are conditions in Xinjiang different from those in Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state?

There was also a third point of interest. Have China’s policies improved or hurt the lives of common people, especially Uyghurs ─ the local Muslims who form a majority of Xinjiang’s population? Is the Chinese government carrying out a large-scale genocide of Uyghurs, as alleged by Washington and the Western media? Has it converted the province into a vast concentration camp for Uyghurs? And are Western governments justified in imposing a spate of sanctions on companies in Xinjiang on the grounds that they employ forced labour?

Partnership with Xinjiang will not only bring economic benefits to India but also important perks in the long run.

China - Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region map

Source: Author

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A Blend of Tradition and Modernity

A four-and-a-half-hour Air China flight brought me from Beijing to Urumqi. By the normal standards of a domestic flight, it was long. But that is how large China is. Xinjiang itself is five times larger in territory than Maharashtra, with a population (2.6 crore) one-fourth of the latter.

Over the next nine days, I travelled from Urumqi to Turpan, Kucha, Khotan (also known as Hotan), Kashgar (also known as Kashi), and some villages along the way. This province is strikingly different from ─ and yet in some ways becoming similar to ─ the rest of China. It is not yet as glitzily prosperous as the economically advanced provinces and cities in Eastern China, such as Guangdong, Zhejiang, Fujian, Shanghai, or Beijing. But in terms of the development of infrastructure, industries, energy and logistics hubs, agriculture, tourism, and people’s standards of living, it distinctly displays Chinese trends and ambitions.

No foreigner can fail to see the stamp of the unique Uyghur traditions in its monuments, customs, cuisine, and the daily life of its people. Yet, with its economy tightly integrated with the rest of China's ─ and now increasingly with that of neighbouring Central Asia ─ Xinjiang is witnessing rapid Chinese-style modernisation.
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Its highways are superior to ours. Its airports are much bigger and better than the ones in Indian cities of comparable population. Urumqi has earned a place among the top 500 cities worldwide in scientific output, as per Nature Index rankings. In urban planning and amenities ─ tree-lined boulevards, parks, gardens, playgrounds, community centres, museums, art galleries, public libraries, and cultural centres ─ Xinjiang is emulating the impressive template set by other Chinese provinces. All through my travels, I saw the greening of Xinjiang’s desert landscape with tree planting on a massive scale.

Once primarily an agriculture-based economy, it has now become a hi-tech manufacturing hub for heavy-duty machinery, pharma, power transmission equipment, solar panels, wind energy turbines, and much more.

How much Xinjiang has changed was vividly described to me by Alimjan, my local Uyghur interpreter when we arrived in Turpan. (I have changed his name as per his request.) He has been working as a professional guide for foreign visitors for over three decades.

“Turpan was a dusty little town just twenty years ago. Not many people used to come here because it is the hottest place in China, where summer temperature can rise close to 50 degrees Celsius. The roads were full of carts pulled by donkeys. Now you see Chinese-made electric vehicles. Top energy, mineral, and food processing companies have offices here.”

I saw an almost endless stretch of wind farms, called 'White Forests’, all along the nearly 200-km-long road from Turpan to Urumqi.

What is more, Xinjiang has made China not only atmanirbhar (self-reliant) in the manufacture of wind turbines but also their major exporter. Goldwind, the world's second-largest and China's largest producer of wind turbines, is a Xinjiang company.
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Nearly 300 km from Urumqi, close to the Mongolian border, I visited the Mulei Kaisheng New Energy Park. Spread over 570 sq km, it produces gigawatt-scale solar power and wind power. The power is transmitted via 3,300 km of ultra-high voltage transmission line to Anhui province in China’s east. It is the longest such transmission line in the world, with one of the lowest levels of transmission loss ─ only 0.3%.

"Tebian Electric Apparatus Stock Company (TBEA), the company that laid this line, has a factory in Gujarat in your country,” Xu Huilin, director of a local foreign affairs office, told me. "China and India should collaborate in the energy sector because we both have a long way to go before we can reach our respective net zero goals.”

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Novel Initiatives in Poverty Eradication

I was surprised to see shepherds grazing sheep beneath the solar panels. “What is this?” I asked. The answer given by the officials of the new energy park revealed an innovative method of poverty alleviation in China. “The land on which our solar farm stands belongs to shepherds in this cluster of villages. They have leased it to our company. We pay rent and dividends to their cooperative and also respect their right to graze their sheep. They are no longer poverty-stricken because their earnings have gone up considerably.”

Complete eradication of extreme poverty was a major mission undertaken by the Chinese government when Xi Jinping became the general secretary of the ruling communist party and the country’s president in 2012. The mission was accomplished by the end of 2020. Among the novel strategies adopted to achieve this goal was the "pairing” of provinces ─ economically prosperous and technologically advanced provinces in the East were mandated to assist less developed provinces like Xinjiang, which had significant pockets of poverty in rural areas.

I saw one such "pairing” initiative when I visited the Shuifa Modern Vegetable Industrial Park on the outskirts of Kashgar. This park, established by the Shuifa Group from the eastern Shandong province with an investment of over USD 150 million, covers more than 300 hectares. It has deployed state-of-the-art agricultural technologies ranging from smart temperature and moisture management greenhouses to soil-less farming in coconut shells. "The coconut shells come from India,” I was told. It produces all varieties of organic vegetables and fruits that command premium prices in far-off markets like Shanghai.

The park employs nearly 3,000 people, most of them Uyghur farmers who own the land and have leased it to the company. Over 60 percent of them are women.
Partnership with Xinjiang will not only bring economic benefits to India but also important perks in the long run.

OUT OF POVERTY,  Haili, a Uyghur farmer at the Shuifa Modern Vegetable Industrial Park near Kashgar in Xinjiang.

Photo: Author

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In addition to finding employment close to their villages and earning decent wages, they also get rental income. Moreover, Shuifa’s experts train them and provide technology support to set up their own greenhouses, so that they can sell their produce back to the company for marketing.

I met one such woman farmer, named Haili. She and her husband Mehmet own three greenhouses, in which they grow tomatoes (“with seeds imported from Holland”), peas, melons, and green leafy vegetables. Their income last year: “900,000 yuan” (nearly Rs 10 lakh). “Where is your husband?” I asked her. “He is at home, looking after our two school-going children. Earlier, wives in our village were confined to their homes. Now we also go out and work, so that our children can study in universities when they grow up and have a bright future.”

At this point, Alimjan, my Uyghur interpreter, interjected. “In the rest of China, education is free for all for the first nine years. But in Xinjiang, it is free for 15 years. In the past, rural families did not generally send girls to have higher education. That has completely changed now.” He then remarked: “It’s terrible to read that the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan have banned girls from going to school and university, and gaining modern knowledge. Islam does not teach us to treat women like this.”

Alimjan narrated another interesting story to describe Xinjiang’s transformation. “Now we have star hotels even in small towns, but this region had very poor facilities for tourists in the past. In the ‘90s, I was taking a group of European tourists around. Europeans are particularly interested in coming to Xinjiang because Explorers like Aurel Stein (a Hungarian-born British archaeologist) and Sven Hedin (a Swedish geographer and travel writer) have made fascinating discoveries in the Taklamakan desert.

The only accommodation I could find for my clients was a small poorly maintained government guest house with no running water and only one common toilet. I could see their discomfort, so I told them, "Don’t worry. You should consider yourself fortunate that you are staying in the same place where Hu Yaobang, who was Chairman of the Communist Party of China, stayed when he came here on an inspection tour in the early 1980s.” (Hu Yaobang, a pro-democracy leader, headed the CPC from 1981 to 1987. He was known to frequently visit poor regions inhabited by ethnic minorities without any paraphernalia.)

I did not see many foreign tourists in Xinjiang, but domestic tourists from all other provinces had arrived in huge numbers at every place of attraction ─ perhaps, because they could not travel for two years due to COVID restrictions. Remarkably, the amenities for tourists ─ first and foremost, public toilets ─ are nearly as good as the ones in Europe.

Partnership with Xinjiang will not only bring economic benefits to India but also important perks in the long run.

Bustling night bazaar in Kashgar, Xinjiang.

Photo: Author

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Are Uyghurs Suppressed? This Musical Village Has a Tale

Are Uyghur traditions suppressed by the majority Han community in Xinjiang? I found a small part of the answer to this question when I visited the Traditional Musical Instruments Village in Shufu County,15 kilometers away from Kashgar.

Although music is regarded as 'haram’ (forbidden) in certain extremist interpretations of Islam, song, dance, and folk music are integral to the cultural and spiritual life of Uyghurs. It is a common sight in restaurants and public squares to see Uyghur women and men dance together to the tune of folk songs. Women, especially, dance with enchanting grace.

This love for music is largely due to the influence of Sufi saints. But the passion for dance can be traced to their pre-Islamic heritage. Dancing apsaras (celestial maidens in Hindu and Buddhist culture) are common motifs in cave paintings in Xinjiang ─ and there are hundreds of Buddhist caves dotting its landscape.
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The most famous musical heritage of Uyghurs is called the 'Twelve Muqams', which is regarded as the "mother of Uyghur music”. It is an ancient 12-set composite of mesmerising songs, dances, and folk music, and narrates tales of heroism, morality, and love. A complete rendering can take almost twenty hours.

No festival or grand occasion in Xinjiang is complete without the Muqam. In the words of Tomur Dawamat (1927-2018), a distinguished Uyghur poet-statesman, “The Twelve Muqams in Xinjiang are the jewel of the industrious Uyghur people’s intellect, and express all aspects of Uyghur life in a capacious artistic encyclopedia. The Twelve Muqams are a priceless part of China’s cultural heritage.”

The villages that make folk musical instruments were very poor until a few decades ago. Now they are booming because the government is promoting it as a "pillar industry” in its poverty alleviation strategy.

The village I visited had a factory, a museum, and a garden, all housed in a large and aesthetically designed complex. The factory space is given free of rent to craftspersons, who make, and export, over 80 varieties of musical instruments, such as dutar, tanbur, rewap, ghijek, and satar that resembles the Indian sitar. All these instruments, along with their lineage, are beautifully displayed in the adjoining museum.

I spoke to Imun Jan, who, at 74, is the oldest craftsman in the factory. He was busy making the belly of rewap, a long-necked instrument. Thirty years ago, it sold for only 250 yuan. Now it fetches a price of 8,000 yuan. “My family has been engaged in this craft for five generations,” he said. “I now teach dozens of young apprentices. It is important to keep this old tradition alive. The government is promoting our craft in many ways. In addition to providing this place free to us, it also gives us 10,000 yuan each year to teach this craft to youngsters. Because of the museum next door, lots of tourists come here. This too has greatly helped our craft. Customers can contact us directly or place orders on the Internet.”

The museum is a storehouse of knowledge for those interested in traditional music from Central and West Asia. It also has a live music band to entertain visitors.

I asked them if they could play any Indian song. With smiling faces, they played "Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy Aaja" from Mithun Chakravarty-starrer 'Disco Dancer’ and 'Awara Hoon’, Raj Kapoor’s evergreen song that continues to be popular in China, Russia, and all of Central Asia.
Partnership with Xinjiang will not only bring economic benefits to India but also important perks in the long run.

'It is important to keep this old tradition alive' - Ustad Imun Jaan, 74, the oldest artisan at the Traditional Musical Instruments Village near Kashgar.

Photo: Author

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The guide who showed me around the museum was Razwana Gul, a smartly dressed young Uyghur woman. “How is the status of Uyghur women in Xinjiang?” I asked her. Pat came the reply — “You can see from my own example. There is no discrimination. My husband is a small businessman. But I am the boss of the family.”

With some hesitation, I asked her another question: “What about the propaganda in the West that Uyghurs’ rights in Xinjiang are suppressed by the Chinese government?” My hesitation was on account of the fact that a Han Chinese woman, Yang Quiliang, was sitting next to her. Yang works with the publicity department of the Shufu County.

“It’s totally false, it’s all disinformation,” Razwan said. “You can see prosperity in Xinjiang with your own eyes. Because of prosperity, the living conditions of Uyghurs and all other ethnic groups living here have improved beyond our imagination. We face no discrimination, either in Xinjiang or in the rest of China where thousands of Uyghurs have gone for employment.”

Yang joined the conversation at this point. "I am a Han Chinese born in Xinjiang. I speak the language of Uyghurs. There are nearly a dozen ethnic groups living and working together in Xinjiang. Don’t forget, Razwan and I are sitting here together in this museum of musical instruments, which is a house of harmony. Don’t you also see social harmony in a Han woman and her Uyghur friend working together here?”

She had a point.

Partnership with Xinjiang will not only bring economic benefits to India but also important perks in the long run.

At the Traditional Musical Instruments Village near Kashgar.

Photo: Author

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Kashmir and Xinjiang: Lessons for India

Almost everywhere, I looked around to see how Xinjiang was different from Kashmir. In Srinagar, checkpoints with gun-toting security personnel are ubiquitous. Not so in the cities in Xinjiang ─ not in crowded bazaars, not in busy streets, and not even outside mosques. This does not mean security is lax there. Surveillance in China is strict ─ indeed, so strict that people from a free and open society like India can find it intimidating. It’s just that it is far more efficient and far less obtrusive.

Like Kashmir, Xinjiang too has faced what a Chinese diplomat described to me as the “triple problems of religious extremism, terrorism, and separatism”. But this scourge has claimed far many more lives of civilians and security personnel in Kashmir than in Xinjiang.
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This does not minimise the severity of the threat of terrorism in Xinjiang. Around 200 people were killed in ethnic violence targeting Han people, which erupted in Urumqi in June 2009. In March 2014, eight knife-wielding terrorists attacked passengers in Kunming’s main railway station in the distant Yunnan province in Southeast China, killing 31 people. As in India, the forces behind these problems are aided and instigated from outside.

The separatist East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) seeks to break Xinjiang away from China and establish an Islamic caliphate there. And just as the Indian government has done in Kashmir, the Chinese government too has firmly put down these threats to peace and national unity.

One thing is crystal clear: there is as much chance of Xinjiang seceding from China as there is of Pakistan making Kashmir independent or making it a part of itself on the flawed logic that a Muslim-majority province cannot belong to a non-Muslim nation.
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However, there are two crucial differences. First, just as China sinified Buddhism that had come from India, it is now following a policy of sinicisation of Arab Islam. (There are potential pitfalls in this policy, which I shall elaborate on in my subsequent article.) Second, China has given a far higher priority to the socio-economic development of Xinjiang than India has done in Kashmir.

In 2022, the state GDP of Jammu and Kashmir was estimated to be 2.5 lakh crore. In the same year, the provincial GDP of Xinjiang was 19.5 lakh crore ─ nearly eight times higher. In 2021, exports from J&K were reported at USD 159.64 million. Exports from Xinjiang in 2020 were USD 15,836.40 ─ nearly 100 times higher.

Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital, is a prosperous and dynamic city, with hundreds of skyscrapers, modern commercial centres, educational research institutions, and hi-tech industrial estates. The same is true, on a smaller scale, in the other cities in Xinjiang. In contrast, Srinagar, with all its matchless scenic beauty, wears the look of a place where growth remains stunted.

China has also attached far greater importance to regional connectivity and cooperation with countries in Xinjiang’s neighbourhood than India has done in the case of Kashmir.
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Xinjiang shares borders with eight out of China’s 14 neighbours ─ India and Pakistan to the southwest, Afghanistan to the West, Tajikistan, Kyrygzstan, and Kazakhstan to the Northwest, Russia to the north, and Mongolia to the Northeast. Five of these eight are Muslim-majority countries. But this fact has not deterred China from building connectivity and cooperation links between Xinjiang and these countries.

In fact, China has given pride of place to Xinjiang in its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ambitious project that seeks to integrate China with all of Asia, Africa, and subsequently Europe. Major infrastructure, industrial, energy, and trade corridors are being built linking Xinjiang and these countries.

In the not-too-distant future, there will be a network of bullet trains running between China and these countries, mirroring a development that has already started between China and South-East Asia. As a result, the ancient Silk Road, on which Xinjiang occupied a pivotal position, is coming alive in a new form in the modern era.
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For example, the Urumqi International Land Port Area, a world-class logistics hub constructed in 2015, has so far sent over 6,500 freight trains, carrying goods manufactured in Xinjiang, to 19 countries in Europe and Central Asia. Two-thirds of China’s gas pipeline imports come from Central Asia, where countries like Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan have huge energy reserves. Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan also have vast untapped hydropower potential.

Before the disintegration of the USSR, all these were Soviet republics. Now their economies are closely linked with China’s. This fact was further reinforced by the China-Central Asia summit hosted by Xi Jinping in Xian in May this year.

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Contrast all this with how India’s refusal to build regional connectivity linkages has cramped Kashmir and several other states. Today Kashmir has no links with Xinjiang to the north, Tibet to the East, and Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran to the West. Lack of transborder connectivity, trade, and cooperation has severely impeded economic growth, employment opportunities, and living standards not only in Kashmir but also in Punjab and Rajasthan, which border Pakistan and are close to West Asia; and in India’s Eastern and Northeastern states that have historically had close links with Southeast Asia and Southern China.

Two examples should suffice to illustrate how the lack of regional connectivity is impeding India’s economic growth, whose energy needs are growing rapidly. Turkmenistan's natural gas reserves, at 50 trillion cubic meters, are estimated to be the world's fourth largest, representing about 10 percent of global reserves.

In 2008, India signed an agreement on the ambitious TAPI gas pipeline project connecting Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. Even after the passage of fifteen long years, the project has remained a non-starter. And so also is the ill-fated Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline.
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All this shows that China exhibits far greater foresight and self-confidence in its regional development strategy and neighbourhood foreign policy than India has done so far. Indeed, Xinjiang’s transformation offers a seminal lesson in how geography can drive common regional development and create a new history of shared prosperity for all neighbours ─ a lesson China has learnt, but India hasn’t.

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Why India Should Reconnect With Xinjiang?

Like much else about China’s fast-paced development since it embraced Deng Xiaoping’s policy of ‘Reforms and Opening Up’ in 1978, Xinjiang’s transformation has also been the result of a long-term plan. In 2004, the Chinese government launched its 'Go West’ campaign in an effort to rebalance economic growth away from the country’s wealthier and more populous eastern provinces to western regions that were less developed and sparsely populated.

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which was an extension of this ‘Go West’ strategy, has given a new meaning to 'Opening Up’. If Deng’s policy led to China opening up its economy to American and European investment, technology, and markets, Xi Jinping’s BRI policy is opening up China, through mainly Xinjiang, to the vast landmass of Eurasia, West Asia, and South Asia.

Deng’s 'Opening Up’ policy created Shenzhen forty years ago, transforming a small fishing village located across Hong Kong Bay into a hi-tech city of over 20 million people. Today, Shenzhen is one of the main drivers of China’s economic growth and a gateway to Southeast and Far-East Asia. A similar story is now unfolding in Xinjiang.

Make no mistake, Xi Jinping’s 'Opening Up’ policy is transforming Xinjiang into China’s gateway of prosperity to Central and West Asia.
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In fact, Xinjiang’s transformation has far greater history-changing potential than Shenzhen. Shenzhen has no civilizational heritage to boast of. Xinjiang, on the other hand, can impact the religious, cultural, and civilizational destiny of a large part of Asia and Eurasia.

One day, I was traveling on a highway from Kashgar towards the Pamir mountains that lie at the tri-junction of Central Asia, South Asia, and China. Hindu and Buddhist cosmologies believe Pamir to be the sacred Mount Meru, the mythical peak that stands at the centre of the universe. Naturally, the road journey prompted me to muse about the past, present, and future of India and its extended neighbourhood.

Kashgar is where the 3,300-km-long China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project under the BRI, begins, and it links Gwadar on the Arabian Sea. In the course of time, Afghanistan, Iran, and all Central Asian republics are bound to join it since it offers abundant developmental opportunities to all of them.

What if India also were to join this corridor? Would it not open up a land route for India to Xinjiang and onward to Central Asia, West Asia, and Europe? Would it not be more beneficial to India and more transformative for the region than the recently announced India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC)?
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Would it not re-open the routes through which our Vedic rishis, Buddhist monks, Sufi saints, scholars, artists, artisans, and traders travelled to these lands for thousands of years? Most importantly, would it not open up a workable possibility to resolve the Kashmir issue with Pakistan and the Aksai Chin issue with China in a peaceful, cooperative, and win-win manner?

(The writer, who served as an aide to India’s former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, is the founder of the ‘Forum for a New South Asia – Powered by India-Pakistan-China Cooperation’. He tweets @SudheenKulkarni. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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Topics:  China    India-China Relations   Xinjiang 

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