Iran's back-drive on Kashmir


Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has again assured his country’s support for Pakistan on Kashmir. Khamenei’s assurance came during Pakistan army chief Gen QamarBajwa’s two-day visit to Iran. Bajwa, who had series of meetings with Iran’s military and civil officials, besides religious leaders, was told by Khamenei that his country stood behind Pakistan on the issue of Kashmir. Iran’s Supreme leader Ayatullah Khamenei has pledged his country’s support to Kashmir earlier also. In June, this year, Iranian leader urged entire Muslim Ummah to support the “oppressed” people of Kashmir. On July 3, he asked his country’s judiciary to "express its firm support or opposition" on several Muslim-related issues including "oppressed personalities like (Nigerian Shiite leader) Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky or Muslims of Myanmar and Kashmir”. Khamenei is the supreme religious authority of Iran. His decrees and fatwas are a binding for his government and people. It, however, is not yet known as what and how much impact the Khamenei ruling shall have on Iranain government and people. Khamenei spoke for the people of Kashmir in 2010 as well. That time Indian government took umbrage of his Kashmir assertions. Government of India summoned Iran’s Ambassador in India and conveyed its displeasure over Khamenei’s statement. Since then Iran maintained a discreet silence and never tried again to offend India. Iran’s role towards Kashmir has always remained dubious, in some ways treacherous to put it in local sentiment. In early 90s (90-91) when militancy broke out here against Indian rule, Iran showed a lot of support and interest in Kashmir. On one occasion (in 1990), Iranian government refused to host then Indian foreign minister I K Gujra (the visit was ultimately canceled) in protest against Indian forces atrocities in Kashmir. That was the last time that Iran was seen as Kashmir supporter. In the coming years Iran radically reversed its position on Kashmir, emerging as great India supporter. In 1994, Iran virtually backstabbed the people of Kashmir when it refused to support a resolution pushed by the OIC in the UN Commission for Human Rights (UNCHR) over gross human rights violations by Indian forces in Kashmir. The resolution had the covert support of America and its western allies. The resolution, with UNCHR approval, was to be referred to the UN Security Council for initiating economic sanctions and other punitive measures against India. That time India was at the brink of economic disaster. Just two years before (1992) India had mortgaged all its gold reserves. Since the decisions in the OIC are taken by consensus, Iranian president Rafsanjani ordered his brigade not to support the resolution. Iran stayed away from voting that ultimately saw the death of the resolution. Rafsanjani’s pro India stance dealt a heavy blow not only to Kashmir cause but also saved India from possible fallout. Since then Iran has built its relations with India strongly. It was for Iran’s unqualified support that India invested in building Chahabahar port as an alternative to China-built Gwadar port in Pakistan. The Chahbahar port would link India with Afghanistan and central Asia bypassing Pakistan. It is perhaps for these facts that Iran Supreme leader’s Kashmir statement did not evoke much interest in Kashmir. It goes without saying that Iran’s change in Kashmir policy has much to do with India’s growing proximity with America and Israel—Iran’s stated enemies. Few would dispute with the fact that Iran is presently facing a sort of isolation. Iran has to blame itself for this. Its policy towards Islamic block centres on sectarian interests only. Iran’s outright support to barbarian Bashar al Assad of Syria, merely for having some far away connection with the Shiite, has hugely harmed its leadership role in the Muslim world. Its past Kashmir policy (pro India and anti Pakistan) and its role in Bahrain and Yemen too is driven by its limited Islamic thought. That has forced major sections of populations in those countries to look towards Saudi Arabia. Iran, as nation and civilization, has a vast history behind it—enough to be qualified for leadership role. Along with Turkey and Pakistan, Iran can provide the leadership to the Muslim world they need. But for this Iran has to walk beyond the limits of its sectarian thought.