Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China occupies a pivotal position in Asia with its borders touching Mongolia: the Central Asian states of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan; Afghanistan and the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, part of which is under the illegal occupation of Pakistan. Holding the distinction of being the largest province of China, Xinjiang is still the only autonomous region where Muslims are in a majority.1 Xinjiang presents a unique case of geographical and ethno-cultural diversity. The Tien Shan range of mountains cuts the region into two distinct but unequal parts, the northern region being traditionally dominated by pastoral nomads and the southern region possessing numerous fertile oasis settlements with well established agricultural and trading traditions. The people of the northern region generally known as Dzungaria have had close affinities with the Mongols living across the border in the east and with the Kazakhs in the west, both maintaining strong commercial and nomadic connections.2

Similarly the Muslims of the southern region of Xinjiang also known as the Tarim basin, maintained through history intimate relations with the adjoining areas of Central Asian Khanates of Kokand and Bukhara, Afghanistan and northern India due to their religious and kinship ties and active trade contacts.3 Such a curious interplay of geography and Xinjiang’s historical role as the crossroads of Central and South Asia, resulted in its ethno-cultural diversity and cross-border movements.