Iran Slams India Over J&K Protests, India Hits Back, Issues Demarche1 October 2010
The Indian Express
New Delhi: New Delhi has lodged a strong diplomatic protest with Tehran after the Iranian foreign ministry condemned Indian action against protesters in Jammu and Kashmir. These demonstrations had been provoked by an Iranian channel, Press TV, which showed clips of alleged desecration of the Koran in the US. While India banned the channel from being broadcast in J&K after over 20 people were killed in the protests on September 13, Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson Ramin Mehmanparast spoke out against the Indian government five days later and went to the extent of saying that to counter such protests could be “interpreted as supporting acts of sacrilege.” On September 18, Mehmanparast said it was “perfectly acceptable for Muslims to react to the desecration of the Koran” and called upon the Indian government to show “self-restraint”. His remarks were read in New Delhi alongside the negative media commentary in Iran on banning Press TV in J&K and the action against protesters. The constant outrage from Tehran upset New Delhi, which finally decided to call in the Iranian envoy to the Ministry of External Affairs and deliver a strong protest. The same was conveyed simultaneously by the Indian mission in Tehran to Iranian authorities. India, sources said, made it clear that maintaining law and order in Jammu and Kashmir was India’s internal matter and Iran had no right to interfere or comment on these issues. More so, officials here say, Press TV allegedly showed clips that were “unverified”. The comments made by Iran and the subsequent protests were against the healthy momentum building up in the relationship during the past few months. In fact, Iran has proposed a trilateral meeting between India, Iran and Afghanistan and the first meeting was being planned on the sidelines of the UNGA but sources added that the Kashmir issue was “too sensitive” for India at the moment. More so, the Organisation of Islamic Countries also issued a statement in New York on the situation in Kashmir, whch was critical of the Indian government. It’s learnt that External Affairs Minister SM Krishna did meet his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki for a brief while at the UNGA and agreed to carry forward the proposal on the trilateral. India, it may be recalled, had recently joined the NAM statement in Vienna criticising the IAEA for not following “proper procedures” while preparing the latest Director General’s report on the Iran nuclear programme. Further, both countries decided to approach the United Nations Security Council for a review of the decision to sanction an Indo-Iranian shipping joint venture called Iran-o-Hind. This company is part of the latest list of companies placed under sanctions in Iran. Even though this could prove to be an uphill task, India agreed with Iran to seek a review. Given the deteriorating security situation in the Af-Pak region complicated by the US decision on drawing down troops, India is keen to re-energise its relationship with Iran. On the other hand, Tehran also wants to expand bilateral ties at a time when it is facing severe sanctions from the West.