"Tianshan-I (2006)": More bad news for Uyghurs and other "dissenters"
Chinese news sources have confirmed that China and Kazakhstan are presently involved in joint “anti-terrorist” drills in the regions of Almaty and the city of Yining (or Kuldja) in the northwest Xinjiang province of China. According to the Chinese People’s Daily , this is the first joint exercise of its kind involving both China and Kazakhstan. Given the geographical location of the exercise, it is obvious that the Chinese are looking at how they could utilize Kazakhstan’s assistance (as a partner in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization) to put down any unrest among the Muslim Uyghur minority of China, which considers the Xinjiang province to be its historical homeland.
The motivation for Kazakhstan in taking part in such an exercise, however, is less clear. It should be noted that the People’s Daily article characterizes the exercises on the Kazakhstan side of the border as utilizing “gunship helicopters, armored anti-riot vehicles and other military equipment.” The use of “anti-riot vehicles” makes the exercise appear to be focused at least in part on preventing civil disorder/dissent as much as on containing terrorism. Regardless, it is particularly interesting to note that the Kazakhstani media is not covering the exercises as closely as China’s media. This is somewhat understandable given the general distrust of China held by many Kazakhstanis as a hold-over from the intense anti-Chinese propaganda during the Sino-Soviet split. Nonetheless, the exercises would have to be characterized as a significant event, especially given China’s growing influence in Kazakhstan.