Asia Watch

Breaking Silence

After seven years, Iran’s Supreme Leader broke his silence on the Kashmir issue this week. Ayatollah Khamenei mentioned Kashmir as part of an appeal to look out for “oppressed Muslims” alongside Yemen and Bahrain, but this sudden interest in the plight of Kashmiris has led to speculation about the motive for this in both India and Pakistan.

Jul 6, 2017
After seven years, Iran’s Supreme Leader broke his silence on the Kashmir issue this week. Ayatollah Khamenei mentioned Kashmir as part of an appeal to look out for “oppressed Muslims” alongside Yemen and Bahrain, but this sudden interest in the plight of Kashmiris has led to speculation about the motive for this in both India and Pakistan.
 
Beyond that, there is also a question of how much this support helps, if indeed it is not detrimental. Some Indian experts believe that the timing of this statement – in the backdrop of the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to Israel (the first in 70 years) – is suspect. The argument is not entirely invalid; seven years of silence imply that the sudden interest might just have been prompted by the urge to remind India what a friendship with Israel might cost. But as Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei is more a spiritual head of state, while temporal power rests in the hands of the President. If irking India was the only thing on the agenda, why did Rouhani not issue support for Kashmiris instead?
 
As far as the benefits for this support go, a neighbouring Muslim nation standing for the rights of Kashmir is very welcome.
And even if the objective was to simply employ a power play against India, it seems to have worked.
The India media cannot stop questioning the motives of the Iranian Supreme Leader, and this food for thought is likely to give it pause, before going against Iran indirectly through friendship with Israel. Not only that, but Iran’s consternation might just be shared by other Muslim states. India befriending Israel means that it stands with an enemy of the Muslim bloc, many of which it has profitable dealings with.
 
The biggest problem though, is that the country asking Muslims to unite for oppressed Muslims in Kashmir is the one most other Muslims nations have united against. Given that Iran and the Gulf states stand on polar ends on most issues and refuse to cooperate, the Supreme Leader’s concern might take more away from the Kashmir cause than provide for it.
Saudi Arabia will not join its voice to Iran’s, and other Muslim states will follow suit.
 
At this point however, the Supreme Leader’s statement is just that: a proclamation with little intent.
More needs to come before we can start hoping for Muslim nations – even Iran – to stand with Kashmiris in more than just spirit. Pressuring India to let the Kashmiri people decide their own fate comes much later.
 
Nation, July 6, 2017

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