The adoption of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), which excludes citizenship for Muslim migrants who had illegally entered India from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh before December 2014, is fuelling anxiety in China.
A Chinese official who did not wish to be named told The Hindu that Beijing apprehends that the law, if it alienates Muslims in India, could have repercussions in Xinjiang—a vast strategically important border region, which has faced separatist violence.
“We fear that if possible Muslim alienation triggered by India’s new Act spreads, it could channel into international terrorism and eventually bolter separatism in Xinjiang,” the official said.
Xinjiang is China’s strategic lifeline. The West-East gas pipeline network drawing gas from Central Asia along a land corridor helps fuel Beijing’s east coast industrial heartland—the workshop of the world, represented by Shanghai and Guangdong province.
China has also unveiled the Greater Bay Area plan, covering the economic integration of Guangdong with Hong Kong and Macao, requiring huge energy sources.
Apart from energy security, Xinjiang is also the “choke point” through which China is connected with Central Asia and Europe along a vast inter-continental transportation network under Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Besides, China views Xinjiang as central to the “one-China” policy, which also rejects efforts that encourage “separatism” in Taiwan, Tibet, Hong Kong and islands in the South China Sea. “Given Xinjiang’s extraordinary importance, China firmly rejects any moves to weaken the one-China principle on the grounds of human rights,” the official said.
China has blamed the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM)—a terror group mainly comprising jihadists of ethnic Uyghur descent, for seeking an independent “East Turkestan” in Xinjiang.
In response to the CAA, a section of the Chinese state media has asserted that the new law mirrors India’s evolving geostrategic posture, in its South Asian neighbourhood, the Indian Ocean and beyond, fuelled by what is called, the rise “Hindu nationalism”.
An article in the state-run tabloid Global Times noted that “broadly speaking” the CAA “reflects the conflict between liberalism and nationalism. In India, the world's largest democracy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has embarked on a path of nationalism. He tries to achieve a unified national recognition via the idea of having one country, one nation, one religion and one language and eradicate diversification and fragmentation in India's society and culture”.
It added that the “rise of Hindu nationalism has broader implications for international politics…Hindu nationalism will not be satisfied to be only the dominant force within India. It will push the country to pursue higher international status - from permanent membership in the UN Security Council to dominance in the Indian Ocean and South Asia and eventually a major world power - to satisfy the need for victory and reputation”.
The daily further noted that the CAA will have a major “spillover effect” on the Hindu minorities in the region. “At the regional level, conflicts are likely to emerge between India and neighbouring countries, especially those having a Hindu population. India cannot move all Hindus to India and the issue of protection of foreign Hindus may arise.”