How the current Kashmir crisis presents a strategic opportunity for Iran

Agha Hussain

Posted originally to Eurasia Future on 19 August 2019.

India de facto annexed Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir earlier this month and heightened military tussles at the border with Pakistan have been a constant feature since then. India has sought to impose as much of a blackout in Kashmir as possible, albeit this hasn’t succeeded in stopping videos and testimonies of the repressionreaching global audiences. Awareness of the depth of the repression in Kashmir has been rising incrementally, making it increasingly difficult for anyone to ignore.

The possibly highly strategic dimension of the Kashmir conflict, however, and significance of the escalatory crescendo for Iran in particular is something that deserves special attention.

What’s unfolding in Kashmir and what it means for Iran

Following the martyrdom of iconic freedom fighter Burhan Wani in 2016, the Kashmiri Azaadi struggle entered a new phase altogether, with the amplified vigour driving the…

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Trump And PM Khan Might Have Just Ruined Iranian-Indian Relations

By Andrew Korybko
Source

The American and Pakistani leaders independently took two very important and uncoordinated moves at almost the exact same time that might coincidentally have the same effect of ruining Iranian-Indian relations.

Iranian-Indian relations might be about to enter their worst-ever period in modern history as a result of two very important and uncoordinated moves undertaken at almost the exact same time by the American and Pakistani leaders. PM Khan just paid his first visit to Iran where he and his hosts announced that they’ll enter into a new era of anti-terrorist cooperation that geopolitical analyst Adam Garrie comprehensively analyzed in his recent piece on this breaking news event. The ball was indeed in Iran’s court to stop India’s anti-Pakistani Baloch terrorism like I wrote the other day, and to Tehran’s credit, its leadership finally understood this and decided to expand its military partnership with the global pivot state of Pakistan. This will greatly complicate India’s Hybrid War capabilities in clandestinely using Iranian territory to carry out terrorist attacks against Pakistan by proxy as it obsessively seeks to sabotage CPEC, meaning that PM Khan’s visit will have far-reaching and long-term geostrategic security consequences in the New Cold War.

In parallel with this, Trump decided that the US won’t renew its Iranian oil sanctions waivers and that Washington’s GCC partners of Saudi Arabia and the UAE will help the Islamic Republic’s energy customers replace their imports with Gulf resources instead. India was very vocal last year about its intent to defy the US’ unilateral sanctions against Iran, but as I wrote in my piece at the time about the “Indian Illusion“, all of this was just rhetoric to hide the fact that New Delhi was quietly implementing its new American patron’s will. Trump just put Modi on the spot, however, and it might augur negatively for the Indian leader during the ongoing month-long electoral process if he publicly capitulates to the US’ demands and replaces Iranian resources with Gulf ones like I suspected he’s been planning to do since late last year after his summit in Argentina with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. As such, this American move might also be yet another “bad cop” tactic against Modi to get more strategic concessions out of India.

It therefore wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Trump and PM Khan might have just ruined Iranian-Indian relations for good when considering the combined effect of their latest moves to that relationship. The Pakistani leader exposed India’s Hybrid War terrorist plot during his talks with the Iranian leadership which probably explains why the two neighboring nations decided to take their military cooperation with one another to the next level, while the American leader is forcing India to stop importing Iranian oil under the threat of potentially crippling “secondary sanctions” and to replace its resources with those from the Islamic Republic’s hated GCC foes. Although Iran and India still have shared strategic interests in the Chabahar Corridor and North-South Transport Corridor, the trust that formerly defined their relations is broken and their ties will never be the same. The end result is beneficial to the US and Pakistan for different reasons and might even interestingly be a tangential outcome of their recent diplomatic cooperationin Afghanistan.

Pakistan And Iran Enter New Era of Anti-Terror Cooperation

By Adam Garrie
Source

Just as the PKK and its sister organisation PJAK are a mutual threat to both Turkey and Iran’s western frontier, so too are terror groups active on the Iran-Pakistan border a mutual threat to both countries that are best neutralised through joint efforts. This was proved beyond a shadow of a doubt when in February of this year a suicide bomber from Pakistan’s Balochistan frontier with Iran took the lives of 27 Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) soldiers and likewise the message was made doubly clear when last week, terrorists based in the neighbouring Iranian province of Sistan and Baluchestan crossed into Pakistan disguised as soldiers and martyred 14 innocent people at point blank range after boarding a bus on the Makran Coastal Highway.

As the Makran Coastal Highway attack came days before Pakistani Prime Minister’s first visit to Iran, it may well have been a calculated provocation designed to inflame Pakistan’s relations with Iran during a season when both countries had already experienced a degradation in relations due to Iran’s hyperbolic reaction to the 13 February attack. Mohammad Ali Jafari, at the time the commander-in-chief of the IRGC made inflammatory remarks about seeking “revenge” on Pakistan for an atrocity committed by a non-state terror group proscribed as an enemy of Pakistan. Jafari’s unambiguous comments which blamed Pakistani state institutions for the attack on the IRGC cast a new narrative over the region which lead one to logically conclude that India’s investments in the Iranian port at Chabahar combined with a misunderstanding of Pakistan’s partnership with Saudi Arabia, led Iranian officials into saying things that should not have been said about a potentially strategically important neighbour.

By contrast, after the Makran Coastal Highway attack, Pakistan launched a formal diplomatic complaint to Iran and the Foreign Minister stated that the issue would be a top priority during Imran Khan’s meeting with the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

News has now broken that a breakthrough has in fact been reached as Pakistan and Iran have agreed to form a joint border patrol “reaction force” that will see Pakistani and Iranian soldiers police an erstwhile porous border that has led to deeply unfortunate attacks on both countries from terrorists who have no regard for either Pakistani nor Iranian national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Even before the announcement of the joint reaction force, there were indications that Iran’s top leadership had realised the errors that were made in February in respect of blaming Pakistan for an attack that should have been a clear indicator of the fact the further cooperation was urgently needed. Yesterday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei relieved Mohammad Ali Jafari of his duties as the IRGC commander-in-chief and replaced him with Brigadier General Hossein Salami. It is likely that the change of the guard in this respect was motivated by internal factors but the timing of the announcement has the optics of a good will gesture to Pakistan as Jafari was among the most unhinged when it came to slandering Pakistani state institutions in February. As geopolitical expert Andrew Korybko wrote last week, “the ball is in Iran’s court” and it seems that this time Tehran did in fact make the proper decision to favour win-win cooperation over totally unnecessary lose-lose antagonism and suspicion.

Overall, Iran and Pakistan have the potential to be important strategic partners in areas beyond the all-important matter of cross-border security and counter-terrorism cooperation. In the long term, Iran could form an important part of a wider CPEC+. Such a Belt and Road based trading structure could potentially see goods originating from China before travelling across CPEC to Gwadar, then being shipped to Iran where they could then either travel to north-west Eurasia via the Caucasus or otherwise into the Mediterranean via Iran’s Turkish neighbour, thus bypassing the Suez region in which Israel and other enemies of Iran hold a great deal of influence.

In terms of energy cooperation, the long anticipated pipeline from Iran into south Asia is a project that has been stalled but nevertheless holds great potential for new win-win energy exchange in the region.

Finally, as geopolitical expert Agha Hussain recently pointed out, if Iran is to bolster its pan-Islamic credentials at a time when the country is facing unique challenges from the west, Israel and parts of the Arab world, it would behove Tehran to embrace the cause of Kashmiri justice just as the country has since its inception as an Islamic Republic, embraced the cause of Palestinian justice. Not only would this help demonstrate that Iran’s Islamic Revolution is more than just a single issue geopolitical development but it would help to eliminate many of the false stereotypes that some Pakistanis have about Iran and that some Iranians have about Pakistan.

The task now for both countries is to make sure that the reaction force is well-equipped and that cooperation along the border can help to create a new era of win-win relations for both neighbours.

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