April 03, 2020
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There is worldwide outrage over the demolition of the Bamiyan Buddha statues. But what is the political fallout? First, tension between ...

Bull's Eye

There is worldwide outrage over the demolition of the Bamiyan Buddha statues. But what is the political fallout?

First, tension between the Shias and the Sunnis has deepened. After the demolition, Shias were slaughtered in Afghanistan. The Taliban denied this but TV pictures said otherwise. The Taliban were incensed by Iran's criticism. Iran's offer to rescue the statues worsened matters. Shias were killed in Pakistan too.

Second, the demolition isolated the Taliban from international Muslim opinion. Muslim nations, including Pakistan, condemned the action. The Organisation of Islamic Conference formally deplored it.

Third, tension between Hindus and Buddhists in India might decrease. Relations worsened after the vhp insisted on a Hindu temple at Bodh Gaya. Indian Buddhists tend to sympathise with Muslims and Christians. Hindu outrage over the demolition might soften their anti-Hindu feeling. Indian Muslims have deplored the demolition. But the endorsing of the Taliban demolition by Delhi's Shahi Imam, who acts like a Bajrang Dal counterpart, could have its effect.

But the most significant impact of Taliban vandalism may lie elsewhere. To avoid isolation, China did not veto the UN Security Council's condemnation of the demolition. It was forced to belatedly express mild regret. China has been the Taliban's silent patron. Pakistan's army and isi are paws of the Chinese dragon. Indian media pundits gloss over this. They do this through either ignorance or bias.

China's links with the Taliban go back to the days when its cadres fought the Soviets as the Afghan mujahideen. Those links continue. For instance, in April 1999, the Chinese cooperated with the Taliban to extract unexploded Russian and American missiles from Afghanistan. In September 2000, Chinese engineers installed Chinese equipment to help the Taliban set up electricity and communication systems. Such instances can be multiplied.

For decades, China has brutally suppressed independence movements in Tibet and Inner Mongolia. Both have restive Buddhist populations. They cannot openly protest. But how will they react to China's muted response to the statues' demolition?

China is a man of all seasons. It woos the Taliban. It suppresses Tibet. But now the climate may become unbearable for even a man of all seasons. In time to come, China may find it increasingly difficult to please the Taliban and at the same time control its restive Buddhists.

They tire their bones
Crushing statues and stones,
But their bluster and din
Amuses Allah within!

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