It is outlandish, tongue-in-cheek and preposterous that China has dared to comment on Nupur Sharma’s comment on Prophet Mohammed and the uncalled for controversy that it has generated. The Chinese spokesperson said something that is neither new nor great philosophy. He said: “It is always important to discard pride and prejudice, better understand the differences between one’s own civilisation and other civilisations, and promote exchanges, dialogue, and harmonious coexistence between civilisations.”
China refused constructive dialogues with Hong Kong before destroying its democracy and has been speaking to Taiwanese by its intimidating military moves, but does not hesitate to advise India to understand other civilisations!
It would have been certainly more fitting for Beijing to advise those in some of the Islamic countries who appeared offended by a statement made during a television debate in India and raised it to the diplomatic levels to accuse India and not an individual. Nupur Sharma is not India. All Indians do not agree with what she said. Nor does she represent government policy.
Even then the emotional reaction that her statement provoked in Islamic countries cannot be overlooked or misjudged. Reactions are fathomable. What is inconceivable is China making a statement on this issue. What is disgraceful is long-standing silence in several Islamic countries over the cruel treatment the Chinese government has been giving to hundreds of thousands of Uyghur Muslims living in Xinjiang. About a million ethnic Uyghurs are bearing the brunt of concentration camps, which are considered re-education exercises by the Chinese government!
Notwithstanding innumerable reports vividly re-counting the miseries and plights of these Muslim people in a communist country, vast majority of Islamic countries have looked the other way or turned deaf ears. The Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) needs to respond to what the US and some European countries call “genocide” of Uighurs in Xinjiang.
Pakistan’s diplomatic daily-diet is its false propaganda on human rights violations in Kashmir, yet Pakistan has an all-weather friendship with China. Even the Muslim extremists in Pakistan who perpetuate terrorism in the name of Islam and bring bad name to this Great Religion have been tight-lipped about the inhuman treatment meted out to their Muslim brothers in Xinjiang!
Look at the Taliban who were at one time mujahedeen to protect Islam from Godless Soviet communists, but their leaders are now making common cause with Godless Chinese communists.
The leaders of Islamic countries need to distinguish between a statement that they find highly objectionable and the merciless suppression of their Muslim brothers in Xinjiang. It is imperative for the GCC and the OIC to elucidate their stand on what is happening in Xinjiang.
It is well-known that Beijing has invested its huge diplomatic capital in the UN Human Rights Council to defend its position. The Council is divided even as China has been able to buy support from dozens of countries, while dozens of other countries keep expressing their concerns over developments in Xinjiang. By using a combination of rewards and potential punishments, China has been able to silence the leaders of several Islamic countries.
India’s democratic polity is well known to the world, where perhaps the largest number of Muslims exercise their democratic rights, unlike their counterparts in several countries who do not enjoy the freedom of speech and other benefits of democracy. India has become a punching bag for such countries, whereas the pain and pangs of millions of Muslims in authoritarian Islamic countries and totalitarian communist countries go inadequately noticed.
In the typical style of wolf warrior diplomacy, China has been trying to find faults with democratic countries to camouflage its heartless treatment of minorities and this is not just the case of the predicament of the Muslim population.
Tibetans too have been reduced to a minority in Tibet with large-scale settlements of Han Chinese. Tibetans have been struggling hard to protect their language and culture from the Chinese government onslaughts. Their spiritual leader His Excellency Dalai Lama had to flee to India and China considers him a separatist even today. Tibetans in China have been desperate to take a glimpse of their spiritual leader, but cannot do so.
Uyghurs and Tibetans are not the only minorities that are the oppressed groups in China. There are many other religious minorities in China. Then there are Mongolians in large numbers and so are several other smaller ethnic minority groups. If President Xi Jinping’s vision and policies succeed, one day there will be one China, one language, one culture, one ideology and one political system in China.
China cries foul when democratic countries make comments on the status of democracy in Hong Kong, Beijing intimidating Taiwan, the Chinese PLA flexing military muscle in South China Sea and East China Sea, concentration camps in Xinjiang, cultural invasion of Tibet. It says such comments are interference in Chinese domestic issues. What then is the rationale behind the Chinese government spokesman making a comment on Nupur Sharma row in India?
The writer is editor, ‘Indian Foreign Affairs Journal’, founder and Honorary Chairperson of Kalinga Institute of Indo-Pacific Studies, and formerly professor of JNU. Views expressed are personal.