Iran and Kashmir: Centuries Old Friends Shaking Hands Again
*Mohammad Iqbal Mir
While India has lost an ally, Pakistan gains another strong voice in the favour of Kashmir plebiscite.
Sayed Ali Khamenei, the highest ranked political and religious figure in Islamic Republic of Iran on 26th of June urged the Muslim World to support the people of Bahrain, Palestine, Yemen, Myanmar and Kashmir and to repudiate oppressors and tyrants who didn’t even spare the innocent masses of these places during the month of Ramadan. This is not the first time that he has raised the Kashmir issue. In 2010, on the occasion of Eid-al-azha, he put it on the same line as Gaza and Afghanistan. Iran once went on to declare Kashmir a Nation and India a Zionist regime even though India is being friendly to Iran and has abstained from voting against the latter in The United Nations Security Council.
Iran plays a strategically significant role for the approximately ’13 percent’ Shias in Kashmir. Shia community shows their allegiance to Iran’s clerical setup (Willayat-e-Faqih). Ayatollah Khamenei of Iran and Ayatollah Sistani In Iraq are acknowledged by the majority of the Shia community as their jurists. In 1980 when the leader paid his visit to Kashmir, he joined Sunni Friday prayers and prayed while standing behind Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq and delivered a 15-minute speech to portray the brotherhood and mutual understanding between the two sects.
It may be to some extent true that the Kashmiri Shias are in favour of “Kashmir Banega Pakistan” because of the fear of alleged persecution of Shias in Pakistan, but it would be wrong to say that they do not want ‘Azadi’. There are three groups of people in Kashmir- the first being those who want a merger with Pakistan as they see Kashmir dispute as the unfinished agenda of partition, the other want an independent Kashmir and the third group which is miniscule in nature want status quo.
Indeed, Shias want “Independent Kashmir” where ‘‘Kashmiriyat’’ will evolve. However, Kashmiri Shias have been passive in the movement and have been known to prefer India. But Iran’s intervention has changed their mindset, and now, like their other Muslim brothers, they have started to be the equal parts of the resistance Movement. To Iran and the local Shia community, the restrictions seem to be never-ending in Kashmir. For example, The Grand Ashura Procession in Kashmir has been banned by the state government since a long time by imposing illogical restrictions over there. It has provoked a particular community which finds no other way out but to participate in the freedom movement. For example, Budgam, a Shia Majority district has become active this year like never before.
Indian Prime Minister’s recent visit to Israel (to Iran, the creation of Israel as a Zionist state is the worst event of the 20th century) has de-hyphenated Palestinian ties with Israel, unlike previous Indian visits. By doing this, India has compromised on its unique history, which it has been proud of. New Delhi’s dependence on the west may create more rivalry against its neighbours. It has been noticed that the adjoining boundaries of India remain vulnerable and can undoubtedly cause a threat to its National Security as well as integrity. We should remember that the faster India hankers after America, the more foes it makes. The irony is these futuristic “foes” are its immediate neighbours. The most important thing is that the US is being ignored and isolated by the world because of its decisions like quitting the Paris Climate Change – G20 meeting held in Hamburg on 8th July.
This is not once but twice within a week that the Ayatollah rakes up Kashmiris concern, which gradually gets a way in Iran’s Foreign Policy. It is certainly not good for New-Delhi. Indeed, it affects Iran-India relationship, which has been seen as productive throughout history. Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid high profile visit to Tehran last year, where India agreed to invest $500 million. It resulted in the establishment of Chabbhar Port which is the most important step to what corporate media calls to sideline Pakistan and also for the development of regional road and rail connectivity with Afghanistan and Central Asia where from India imports Oil etc. An additional $16 billion free trade zone was also signed. The bilateral trade is around 14 billion USD in which India imports around $12 billion worth of oil from Iran.
Pakistan’s relationships with Iran have been strained at times due to sectarian tensions, as a section of Pakistani Shias claim that they are being discriminated under the Pakistani government’s Islamization program. But Iran always makes efforts to cooperate with Pakistan. At present, both countries are cooperating and forming alliances on several areas of mutual interest such as fighting the drug trade and combating Baluchistan along their border. Iran has expressed an interest in joining the CPEC. Saudi Arabian Use of Wahhabism, the policy of in toleration and most importantly, the dependence of Pakistan and anti-Iran hatred are the causes of downs in a relationship with Iran, but Pakistan has, for now, become strategically neutral to both the Middle East regional emerging powers.
Iran has continuously spoken for Kashmir and this has shaken the entire Indian establishment. Iran has taken a firm stand against Indian Oppression in Kashmir. Iran has historically been a supporter in this matter but Indian diplomacy has silenced the pro-Kashmir voice in past 7 years. The recent Iranian move suggests that Iran has realised that Indian game in the region is to weaken Pakistan at every cost. Iran has historically fought alongside Pakistan during 1965 and 1971 wars. While India has lost an ally, Pakistan gains another strong voice in the favour of Kashmir referendum. If Pakistan, China, Iran and now Russia make a formidable regional Alliance, both India and the United States lose their influence in South Asia.
*The Author is pursuing Masters in Sociology at Jamia Milla Islamia, New-Delhi. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position and policy of Oracle Opinions.