displays its power. Below Natwar Singh meets Iranian President
Why Iran Feels so Hurt and Betrayed by India
M K Bhadrakumar
DELHI, October 4: Strikingly similar to the crisis that Iran faced
at the IAEA Board meeting in Vienna last weekend, India too found
itself in a tight spot in April 1994 at the United Nations Human
Rights Commission's annual session in Geneva.
India and Iran found themselves entangled with each other then
too, as of now -- but with an entirely different body language.
there is a Shakespearean touch to the sense of betrayal that Iran
is so evidently harboring today over India's vote against it at
Vienna, how much of that harks back to silent memories of what
had transpired between the two countries in 1994, we shall never
may find it to be in bad taste to be blunt and forthright on such
delicate issues as trust and betrayal.
April 1994, when the UNHRC was assembling in Geneva, India faced
an ugly situation. We were just pulling out of a grave economic
crisis (of our own making, though) and were extremely vulnerable
to the goodwill of international financial institutions.
importantly, the Kashmir valley was burning -- witnessing some
of the bloodiest violence in its unhappy history. The country
itself was panting and heaving from the bloodletting of communal
violence -- hidden medieval passions were tearing it apart.
in 1994, India was not yet possessed with the swagger and all-knowing
cockiness of its current middle class optimism -- or, for that
matter, its frightening pragmatism that is determined to make
every relationship outright profitable.
too, the climate was uncertain. Boris Yeltsin's Russia was lurching
toward the West in drunken stupor, and there was a big question
mark as to the availability of a 'Soviet' veto if the Kashmir
file ever again got reopened in the UN's business dealings.
if the UNHRC in Geneva adopted a resolution condemning India for
grave human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir, a pathway
would have opened for any of India's detractors (not only Pakistan)
for referral of the 'Kashmir problem' to the UN in New York. The
crisis was comparable to what could happen today if the IAEA indeed
decided on a UN Security Council referral apropos of the Iran's
assessment in the foreign policy establishment in Delhi at that
time was that in the event of the Kashmir resolution coming up
in Geneva, it had a strong possibility of getting adopted.
draft resolution enjoyed the support of the 54-member states of
the Organization of Islamic conference and possibly some faraway
countries in the Western world. Of course, Pakistan was its prime
it was that on a cold wind swept morning in late March in 1994
with the Elbruz Mountain still wrapped in sheets of snow that
an Indian military plane landed in Teheran airport bearing the
then Indian external affairs minister Dinesh Singh and three accompanying
officials from Delhi as his co-passengers.
minister was visiting Iran to deliver in person an urgent letter
from Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao addressed to Iranian President,
Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Rao was seeking Iran's last-minute
intervention at the OIC with a view to ensuring that the Kashmir
resolution did not pass through the UNHRC.
OIC (like the IAEA) too had a convention that all decisions had
to be arrived at through consensus. So, Rao shrewdly assessed
that if a prominent OIC member like Iran were to abstain, there
would be no 'consensus.' Rao was greatly averse to Dinesh Singh
undertaking the mission, as the minister was seriously ill from
the multiple strokes he had suffered a few months ago.
Dinesh Singh ("Raja Saheb") would have no one else undertake
such a crucial mission -- and Rao reluctantly gave in. Sadly,
that also happened to be the last mission undertaken by Dinesh
Singh in a diplomatic career spread over five decades.
fact, after one look at Dinesh Singh alighting from the aircraft,
Iranian Foreign Minister Dr Ali Akbar Velayati, who was waiting
at the tarmac, impulsively asked what on earth could be of such
momentous importance for the minister to undertake such a perilous
journey in such a poor state of health.
Singh went through his 'Kashmir brief' diligently through the
day's meetings with his Iranian interlocutors -– apart from
Dr Velayati, President Rafsanjani and the Speaker of the Iranian
Majlis Nateq-Nouri. The Iranian side politely noted the minister's
in all, the business was transacted in a matter of 6 or 7 hours.
Dinesh Singh left immediately for the airport for his return journey.
he was emplaning, Dr Velayati who had come to the airport, reached
out and holding Dinesh Singh's hands together in his, said: 'Ali
Hashemi (President Rafsanjani) wanted me to convey his assurance
to Prime Minister Rao that Iran will do all it can to ensure that
no harm comes to India.'
the plane took off, Dinesh Singh and his three co-passengers pondered
over the import of what Velayati said. Did it mean that Iran would
get the OIC resolution watered down? Or, would the resolution
leave out any outright condemnation of India that attracted the
took 72 anxious hours more for Delhi to realize that instead of
a halfway solution, Iran went ahead with surgical skill and literally
killed the OIC move to table the resolution at a UN forum. We
heard later that as the Pakistani ambassador sought to move the
OIC resolution, his Iranian counterpart in Geneva acted on directives
from Teheran and made an intervention.
said that for Iran, both Pakistan and India were close friends,
and Iran would be loathe to the idea that problems between friends
could not be sorted out between the two of them, and needed instead
to be raised at an international forum.
was the last time that Pakistan sought to get a resolution over
Kashmir issue tabled at a UN forum.
when the head of Iran's National Security Council, Ali Larijani
said last Tuesday with a palpable sense of hurt: 'India was our
friend. We did not expect India to do so' -- he would have had
much more in mind than the 'shock and awe' that India administered
to Iran last weekend at Vienna.
erudite mind could not have missed the dramatic irony of it all
-- that Teheran should have salvaged India's day at the OIC 11
years ago, and Delhi having a sudden, unexplained, inexplicable
memory lapse in the IAEA.
on both occasions, it boiled down to how to kill a mocking bird
-- how to keep a festering wound from being prised away for therapy
in distant New York.
writer is a former Indian ambassador with extensive experience
in handling India's relations with Iran.This article first appeared