Thursday, March 13, 2008




I was in receipt of some feed-back in response to my earlier paper titled "Threat To Beijing Olympics From Uighurs" from readers in West Europe and the US. Some of the comments expressed skepticism about the Chinese accounts of the threat. Some others questioned my comments on the presence of a group of pro-Western Uighurs in Albania, Kosovo and Turkey. One comment from the US even alleged that my reference to Albania and Kosovo affected the credibility of my article. My comments in response to this feed-back are given below:

"Assessments are based on available facts. For assessments to be 100 per cent accurate, one needs 100 per cent facts. It is not possible to get 100 per cent facts---neither in the intelligence profession nor in journalism. Assessments asserted with conviction today may prove to be wrong tomorrow in the light of new facts since available. This was true in respect of conventional wars between States. It is true in respect of unconventional confrontations between States and non-State actors such as terrorists. What I have stated is my assessment based on the facts available to me from Pakistani media and police accounts of the terrorist situation in the Pashtun tribal belt. There are now and then references to bodies of Uighurs and Tajiks being found in addition to bodies of Uzbeks and Pashtuns.. There was at least one instance of the identification of an Uighur who was killed. There are references to some Uighurs and Tajiks acting as the junior partners of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the Islamic Jihad Union. From this I have concluded that there is a small group of Uighurs, probably from the Uighur diaspora in Pakistan, which has been operating jointly with the IMU and the IJU under the umbrella of the Eastern Turkestan Islamic Movement. Their objectives are not West related, but China related. I allow for the possibility of deliberate exaggeration or unintentional over-estimation in the Chinese accounts of this threat. But this does not mean that the threat is imaginary and politicised to serve Beijing's Han agenda. As regards the pro-Western group being exploited by the US to needle China, I have known some of them personally in the 1980s and early 1990s when they used to work for the CIA-funded Radio Liberty, then based in Munich. I had attended some of the public meetings and discourses on Tibet in West Europe in the 1980s and the 1990s. Uighurs, who were working for Radio Liberty, used to be in the forefront of the organising committees."

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )