China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan on Wednesday pledged to set up a new alliance to fight against terrorism after senior military officials met in Urumqi, the capital of China’s troubled Xinjiang autonomous region.
According to Chinese state news agency Xinhua, the "Quadrilateral Cooperation and Coordination Mechanism" aims to respond to threats posed by terrorists in the region and “safeguard all member countries' peace and stability."
The deal was agreed between China’s powerful Central Military Commission, represented by Fang Fenghui, and his counterparts General Qadam Shah Shaheem from Afghanistan, General Raheel Sharif from Pakistan and Major General E. A. Cobidrzoda from Tajikistan.
A joint statement issued by the generals said the alliance will focus on the "study and judgment of the counter terrorism situation, confirmation of clues, intelligence sharing, anti-terrorist capability building, joint anti-terrorist training and personnel training."
The region often experiences attacks committed by the Taliban and like-minded groups.
Army chiefs of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan witness anti-terrorism exercises in Xinjiang, China pic.twitter.com/AmNeuKuvQ9
— Tahir Khan (@taahir_khan) August 3, 2016
China is particularly concerned that instability in Afghanistan may spillover into Xinjiang, home to the indigenous Uighur people, where militants seek to establish a separate state called East Turkestan.
Beijing pins the cause of violence in Xinjiang on “extremism” in the Uighur community, but rights groups have accused China of stoking tensions through curbs on open expressions of Uighur identity and culture.
The Uighurs are a Turkic-speaking Muslim minority in China with a culture distinct from the Han Chinese majority. Tensions stemming from increasing Han Chinese migration to Xinjiang and harsh crackdowns on Uighur activism often flare into violence between the two communities.
China already plays a mediation role in talks with the Taliban to end years of insurgency in Pakistan and Afghanistan but so far negotiations have been fruitless.
Commenting on the newfound alliance, US State Department spokesman Mark Toner described it as "positive" but conceded that there is still “a lot of work to be done" in tackling terrorism in Central Asia.