The envoy speaks
Has Iran changed its Kashmir policy?
SYED ALI SAFVI
The chief architect of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Ayatollah Ruhullah Khomeini, once refused to meet a visiting Indian delegation of ministers as a mark of protest against State-backed violence and atrocities in the conflict-torn region of Kashmir – the land of his ancestry. He unequivocally affirmed his support and solidarity for the oppressed people of Kashmir by making it amply clear that it was imperative on Indian government to stop injustice in Kashmir, to see any improvement in the Indo-Iran ties.
Following on the Kashmir policy of his predecessor, in November 2011, Iranian Supreme leader Ayatollah Imam Khamenie, in his message to Hajj pilgrims, urged the world community to pledge their support for the struggle in Kashmir, besides other conflict zones of the world.
“The major duties of the elite of the Islamic Ummah is to provide help to the Palestinian nation and the besieged people of Gaza, to sympathise and provide assistance to the nations of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Kashmir, to engage in struggle and resistance against the aggressions of the United States and the Zionist regime,” Ayatollah Khamenei said. This statement raised many eyebrows in New Delhi, and they felt Iran was “questioning India's territorial integrity and sovereignty.
There is no denying the fact that Iran - champion of world’s oppressed people – has always supported the aspirations of the people of Kashmir. Ayatullah Khamenie makes it a point to mention Kashmir and Palestine at every Friday prayer in Tehran University. Kashmir is seen as an “occupied territory”, much to the chagrin of India, considered a key Iranian ally.
In this backdrop, the recent visit of Iranian envoy to Kashmir and his rather strange and oblivious stance on the Kashmir problem has raised more questions than answers.
It was after over a decade that a senior diplomat from Iran visited (or was allowed to visit) Kashmir.
Over the last few years, the powers-that-be have went out of their way to roll out the red carpet to those who were earlier considered persona non grata in Kashmir. Of course, there is a method to this madness. Iranian envoy is one of them.
The separatist camp saw the visit of Iranian envoy to Kashmir as a good opportunity to lobby for Iranian support to pressurize India to settle the long standing imbroglio, in accordance to the aspirations of people.
However, the much-hyped visit of the Iranian envoy turned out to be a dampener. During his two-day stay in the valley, the envoy addressed seven functions organized to mark the 23rd death anniversary of Ayatollah Khomeini. But, to the surprise of many, he chose to remain tight lipped on Kashmir issue, despite being provoked by Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chairman Yasin Malik at a function in Hotel Jehangir.
Has Iran changed its traditional Kashmir policy because it does not want to earn the wrath of its important ally India? Has Hurriyat failed to draw the attention of Iranian envoys towards the plight of Kashmiri people? Or, was it all a pre-planned conspiracy in which Hurriyat, like others, also played its part?
Iranian envoy landed at Srinagar airport on June 3 on his maiden visit to Kashmir, and straight drove to Lalit Grand Palace hotel, where he addressed a select gathering of Kashmiri separatists and mainstream leaders over the luncheon. It was not clear who played the host at the mega event. Even though envoy presented himself as the host, but it clearly looked like a state-managed show.
The invitees had been carefully chosen to suit the interest of the government. Absence of some popular separatist figures in the function raised many a brow and exploded many a myth.
In his speech to the audience comprising of Hurriyat Conference chairman, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, JKLF chairman, Yasin Malik, Hurriyat Conference executive member, Aga Syed Hassan Moosvi, Democratic Freedom Party president, Shabir Ahmad Shah, J&K National Front chairman, Nayeem Ahmad Khan, state legislators Aga Syed Ruhullah Mehdi, Moulvi Iftikhar Ansari, Mohammad Yusuf Tarigami, beside others, Mehdi Nabizadeh waxed eloquent about growing trade ties between India and Iran, and said that India and Iran will encourage forging of closer ties, which unmistakably did not go down well with the separatist leaders present at the event.
This was followed by another function organised by J&K Anjuman-e Sharie Shian, a constituent of Hurriyat Conference executive council, at Hotel Jehangir in the heart of Srinagar city.
Hurriyat leaders wanted to use this stage to counter the Iranian ambassador’s “callous” speech at Grand Palace hotel a day before.
Speaking on the occasion, visibly upset Yasin Malik, termed Nabizadeh’s Grand Palace speech as completely “undiplomatic” and “uncivilized”. He went on to speak about Ayatollah Khomeini’s struggle and his stand on Kashmir issue, and urged the Iranian authorities to break their silence on this disputed Himalayan region.
However, even Malik’s speech failed to impress ambassador, who mentioned Palestine, Syria, Bahrain in his speech but again chose to remain tightlipped on Kashmir, prompting Yasin Malik and Mirwaiz Umar to exchange glances and laugh in disenchantment.
It was left to Mirwaiz to strike the right chord, but even that was not enough to prevent an inevitable anti-climax.
Stating that “Iran-e Kabir” has a major responsibility towards “Iran-e Sagheer”, Mirwaiz said that Iran shares good relations with both India and Pakistan, and therefore it can play an important role in impressing upon the two Asian estranged neighbours to resolve the Kashmir issue.
The separatist show at the Hotel Jehangir was complete flop as it failed in its objective. The function which promised high voltage action turned out to be a mere photo op.
Instead of blaming the Iranian diplomat’s apparently bad calculation, Hurriyat’s poor home work must be blamed for it. Unlike the state government, the separatists did not deem it necessary to brief the envoy prior to the function.
Despite reeling under all sorts of international pressure and economic sanctions, Iran has continued its full support for oppressed nations in the world, including Kashmir. Just because Iranian envoy did not directly mention Kashmir issue in his speeches, we cannot dismiss the role and support of Iran viz-à-viz Kashmir struggle.
The problem with Hurriyat is that it has not yet come out openly and unambiguously to make its policy and affiliation public. Hurriyat cannot and must not expect Iran’s support while sitting in the lap of Uncle Sam. There is a need to draw a line. You can’t seek help from Iran and America in the same breath. I wonder how they expect America – the country that has shed blood of thousands of Muslims – to champion the cause of Muslim-dominated Kashmir region.
As far as Iran is concerned, it has always strongly voiced its support to Kashmir, and has bracketed the situation in the region with Palestine and Afghanistan. Be it Ayatollah Khomeini or Ayatollah Khamenie, Kashmir has figured prominently in their speeches.
On November 16, 1965, addressing a gathering at Masjid Sheikh Ansari in Iraq, Ayatollah Khomeini, while proclaiming his programme for the Muslim world, had expressed deep regret about the disunity prevailing among the Muslims and blamed it for all the trouble besetting Muslims.
“Had Muslim nations been united these handful of Jews could have never taken the land of Palestine away from the Palestinians. Had they been united, ill-fated India could have never snatched our dear Kashmir from us,” Khomeini lamented, and urged the Muslim rulers and Islamic scholars to sit together and introspect.
“Guard the boundaries of your respective nations, but unite against your common enemy… Your enemies want to have access to and to have control over your natural resources. They will never allow Muslims to unite,” Khomeini said.
Similarly, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei has repeatedly expressed solidarity with the Kashmiri people.
The need of hour is to go back to trenches and re-discover the objectives and the spirit. Separatist leaders need to shun their ambivalence, duplicity, internal differences, and focus on the task at hand. The movement needs to be organized in a manner that world leaders are forced to pay attention to our plight and problem. The weak separatist leadership means the weak Kashmir and this movement can ill afford that in the present circumstances.
(The writer is a Kashmir-based journalist. He be mailed at email@example.com)
Lastupdate on : Sun, 1 Jul 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 1 Jul 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 2 Jul 2012 00:00:00 IST
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