After tensions broke out between India and Pakistan over the first’s revocation of the constitutional portion granting special status to the Muslim-majority Kashmir, there were some moves by the Iranian regime at the official and popular levels in a veneer of solidarity with the oppressed people in Kashmir.
The regime claims that it is opposed to any oppression that could be inflicted on the people in Kashmir. But commentators dispute this claim, citing Iran’s growing relations with India, the Kashmiris’ supposed oppressor. This controversial stance pushed me to look deep in the history of relations between India, Pakistan, and Iran in order to understand exactly who is with who.
Display of Solidarity
On August 7, 2019, Iran called on India and Pakistan to pursue dialogue over the disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said Iran “is closely monitoring the Indian government’s recent decisions on Jammu and Kashmir, and is carefully listening to the explanations provided by the Indian and Pakistani officials for the recent developments, according to Press TV.
“Iran expects India and Pakistan, as its regional friends and partners, to take effective steps to serve the interests of people of the region by adopting peaceful approaches and dialogue,” he said in statements carried by Tasnim news agency.
'Military approaches in this region will further complicate the situation'https://t.co/7ytCYXSqKP
— RT (@RT_com) August 11, 2019
At the unofficial level, there had been some moves that expressed Iran’s rejection and resentment at the Indian move.
Iranian students held a rally in Tehran to denounce India’s recent decision to scrap a constitutional provision that granted special status to the Muslim-majority New Delhi-controlled Kashmir.
The protest rally took place in front of the Indian Embassy in Tehran on Thursday.
Oppressed by US Sanctions, the People of Islamic Republic of #IRAN?? Protested infront of Indian embassy in Tehran to oppose India's brutal military crackdown in Kashmir.#KashmirIsOurWeAreKashmir pic.twitter.com/4MN0Q8qwIK
— THE KARBALA NETWORK (@karbala_network) August 8, 2019
Holding up placards and chanting slogans, the protesters called on the international community to address the plight of ‘Kashmiri Muslims’, who have felt the brunt of Indo-Pakistan hostilities for three decades, according to reports on Iranian media platforms.
In order to identify the Iranian position on Kashmir, we should have a look at Iran’s relations with India, and compare them to its ties with Pakistan.
Need Each Other
There are several factors governing the relationship between Iran and India. After all, New Delhi is home to the fourth-biggest Shiite minority in the world.
Thus, India pulls on the sectarian heartstrings via exploiting the Sunni-Shiite rivalry. It aims to curb Pakistan’s influence in international Islamic forums. Also, Iran’s geopolitical position is significant for India, as it can counteract China’s increasing presence throughout Asia and boost India’s regional influence.
This is in addition to Iran’s massive oil and gas resources, which could help India meet its domestic energy needs. India was among the eight oil buyers exempted by the US for six months from the sanctions on Iran.
To Iran, India is a significant partner for several reasons. The two sides share historic, cultural and ethnic ties.
In the aftermath of the New Delhi Declaration in 2003, Iran and India referred to each other as “strategic partners” and embarked on joint military exercises
India’s foreign policy is also congruent with that of Iran. The two countries are opposed to U.S. unilateralism and a unipolar world.
India Over Pakistan
Unlike India, Iran’s relations with Pakistan were not that so close. In the late 1940s, they established their relations. In the beginning, Iran was a friend and brother. There was significant bilateral cooperation in cultural, economic and security aspects. For example, Iran provided moral and material support to Pakistan in its 1965 and 1971 wars against India.
But the two countries’ relations strained on account of several factors, including Pakistan’s close ties with the Gulf Arab states, such as Saudi Arabia in the 1980s and the War on Terrorism launched by the US. The stronger Pakistan had ties with Saudi Arabia and the US became, the weaker it had ties with Iran.
The Iranian regime and its media outlets always looked at Pakistan as one of the US proxies in the region.
Despite the soft rhetoric used in the two countries’ media outlets and statements, there have been skirmishes along the borders, mutual accusations of cross-border terrorism, an Iranian general threatening Pakistan with a surgical strike, and an Iranian drone being shot down in Pakistan.
Therefore, the overall assessment of Iran’s relations with both India and Pakistan tips the scale in favor of India.
Back to Iran’s position on the crisis in Jammu and Kashmir, we find that Iran’s line of policy on this issue is different given its cordial ties with India, which controls the biggest part of the disputed region.
On more than one occasion, Iran voiced its support for Kashmir. In November 2010, on the occasion of Eid Al-Adha, he made a passionate appeal to the Muslim community to support the “struggle” in Kashmir and put Kashmir in the same category as Afghanistan and Palestine. The supreme leader spoke during one of his speeches of “the many wounds inflicted on the body of the Muslim world” and urged the Islamic Nation to “express its disdain for the oppressors”. He cited what is happening in Bahrain, Yemen, and Kashmir.”
He said the Muslim world should “openly support” people in these countries.
One week later, the supreme leader mentioned Kashmir again, as he was addressing an important meeting of top judiciary officials in Tehran.
These statements, of course, are contradictory to the record of relations between Iran and the one causing the plight of those people: India.
With a deep look at the geopolitical realities inside Kashmir, we could easily decode this mystery.
There are 1.4 million Shia Muslims who make up 15 percent of the entire population of Indian-administered Kashmir. They are mostly concentrated in the Budgam district of Central Kashmir, parts of Srinagar and Kargil. As the home to the biggest Shiite community on the planet, Iran considers itself a guardian over all the Shiites across the world. Therefore, it is targeting hundreds of thousands of Shiite populations in the disputed region.
Ideology is the Decoder
Therefore, the prime reason for Iran’s support for Kashmiris is ideology. It is the same reason which brought it closer to the Indians, who oppress them. Iran supports the Shiite Kashmiris, not all the Kashmiris, and India suppresses only the Sunni Kashmiris, using the Shiites as a shield against what it calls Sunni extremism spilling over from neighboring Pakistan. Iran never defends an oppressed people. On the contrary, its militias in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Lebanon are cold-bloodedly massacring those people ‘on ideological grounds’.