May 28, 2002

THE ASIAN TINDERBOX

THE ASIAN TINDERBOX: Everyone is nervous about the Indians and Pakistanis wiping out 12 million of each other. The New York Times reports that senior Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders are most likely in anarchic Western Pakistan-- which the Musharraf government has even less control over now that they're preoccupied in Kashmir. Of course, the Ladenist veterans are no doubt filtering through Pakistan to toss gasoline on the Kashmir fire, eager as they are for apocalypse.

One angle I haven't seen: how does Nepal's Maoist insurrection fit in? Nepal is a constitutional monarchy (though the King currently has emergency powers to deal with the rebellion), and is Hindu and Buddhist-- which means it has cultural and trade connections with India and especially with the semi-autonomous region of Tibet. Nepal's trade agreements with China are designed mostly to maintain the relationship with Tibet. (They trade yaks-- seriously.)

If the Maoist insurrection succeeded in Nepal, it would give Beijing a Himilayan flank to contain the "Free Tibet" movement and reassert hegemony in the Western region. In addition to the Buddhist separatists in Tibet, China also wants to thwart the Muslim Uighar seperatists in Xinjiang, another Western province.

The Uighar seperatist movement, like the fundamentalist-usurped Chechen nationalist movement, is supported by Ladenist elements. If those elements were consumed in a nuclear inferno in Kashmir, Beijing's control over Xinjiang would be strengthened. Likewise, if massive tragedy in India disrupted tourism and trade with Nepal, the constitutional monarchy in Kathmandu might become weak enough for the Maoists to topple it and establish a Chinese satellite-- which would increase China's control over Tibet.

In other words, from Beijing, Armageddon on the Sub-Continent might look like a pretty good deal, and not so hard to surreptitiously encourage. Boy, I hope I'm wrong about this.

UPDATE: Don't miss the comment board for some better-specialized knowledge (hint: I am wrong, at least partially).

Posted by John Tabin at May 28, 2002 01:13 PM
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