Is Kashmir the next Xinjiang?

Foreign Affairs

On August 5, India unilaterally revoked the autonomy of Kashmir, and integrated it into India proper. Since then, Kashmir has been effectively shut down, with no internet, little mobile phone functionality, and a widespread police presence. India’s treatment of Kashmir shares more than a few similarities with how China has treated Xinjiang in the past decade, according to an article by Nithin Coca in The Nation.

Photo credit: SupChina illustration

Is India learning from China?

Jammu and Kashmir comprise the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir, which India and Pakistan have both claimed since 1947. On August 5, India unilaterally revoked the territory’s autonomy, and integrated Jammu and Kashmir into India proper.

Since then, Kashmir has been effectively shut down, with no internet, little mobile phone functionality, and a widespread police presence.

India’s treatment of Kashmir shares more than a few similarities with how China has treated Xinjiang in the past decade, according to an article by Nithin Coca in The Nation:

  • An internet shutdown was also part of the toolkit that China employed after ethnic riots in Xinjiang in 2009.
  • Islamophobia is on the rise in both countries, and Xinjiang and Kashmir are both largely Muslim regions in otherwise mostly non-Muslim states. Han Chinese nationalism isolates Muslims in China, while Hindu nationalism isolates Muslims in India.
  • Fears of terrorism have motivated crackdown in both regions — in India’s case, a “March 2019 attack on a convoy by an Islamist suicide bomber in Pulwana, which killed 40 police personnel.”
  • Migration is encouraged: “There is talk about moving Hindu migrants to Kashmir and allowing Indian and foreign businesses to exploit the resource-rich region, enabled by the removal of laws that forbid non-Kashmiris from owning land in Kashmir. This echoes what has happened in Xinjiang.”

India may also be importing surveillance equipment from China:

Hikvision, a Chinese state-controlled company and one of the world’s largest developers of sophisticated CCTV surveillance systems, had contracts with Chinese police in Xinjiang, and is now exporting technology to India, according to a recent report from the Carnegie Endowment. Alongside CCTV systems, the use of drones and other aerial vehicles to monitor mosques and the movement of Kashmiris has become pervasive, and there’s even a “smart border” that resembles Chinese efforts to limit the movement of people along the Xinjiang and Tibet borders.”

Of course, other aspects of China’s control over ethnic minorities in Xinjiang — namely, the concentration camps, where upward of a million people are detained — are thankfully not being replicated by India in Kashmir. India did arrest nearly 4,000 people without a clear basis after the Kashmir crackdown, though most have been released as of last month.

Learn more about the situation in Xinjiang: China’s ‘social re-engineering’ of Uyghurs, explained by Darren Byler.