New Delhi: In a major development, the Ministry of External Affairs on Saturday announced that India was invited to be the guest of honour at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. This is a first for India and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj is all set to address the inaugural plenary session on March 1.
India, on its part, said that the invitation was taking forward the strong bilateral ties that UAE and India shared and it was also a “welcome recognition of the presence of 185 million Muslims in India and of their contribution to its pluralistic ethos and of India’s contribution to the Islamic world.”
OIC states it is the collective voice of the Muslim world and works to safeguard their interests. With permanent representatives to the United Nations and the European Union, has over 50 member states.
Former diplomat Talmiz Ahmad said the fact that India was to go to the OIC is a big blow to Pakistan which has used the platform to humiliate India multiple times. Further, he added, it indicates that Saudi Arabia and other countries, including the UAE, have realised that this kind of association with Pakistan would yield no results and that humiliating India makes no sense. “It marks the end of the nightmare that India has had with the OIC,” Ahmad said.
The Long, Rough Road To OIC
The development marks a significant diplomatic win for India as Pakistan has been staunch opponent to India getting even an observer status, let alone become a member of the OIC. Going back in time to the first ever Islamic summit in 1969, it was a call by then Pakistani president General Yahya Khan to boycott India that completely dashed India’s hopes of joining the OIC.
India has, over the years, tried to reverse history and get itself a place at the OIC. The organization, too, has been critical of India’s actions when it comes to Kashmir. Only last year, it had condemned the killings of Kashmiris by the armed forces in “India-occupied Kashmir” and called it a terrorist act.
Former vice president and diplomat Hamid Ansari, in 2006, had made a pitch for India to become a member of the OIC, writing that while India was not a Muslim country it had a significant Muslim population and was not away from it. Ahmad too recalls how, after 1990, Pakistan had used it the OIC platform to make anti-India statements.
“We started having interactions with OIC officials. It resulted in some softening of the OIC stand but then there was nothing formal,” Ahmad explained, adding that when Jaswant Singh became minister, he decided to ignore any resolutions or statements that were passed by the OIC on India. And that has stayed. Even last year, in September, India rejected to the mention of Kashmir in Pakistan’s statement at the OIC and said that India always noted with regret the way matters internal to India were discussed at the OIC.
Bangladesh had made a call for reforms within the OIC so that countries like India could get observer status, a proposal which was vehemently blocked by Pakistan. Now, with Sushma Swaraj finally headed to Abu Dhabi for the inaugural plenary, it is, as Ahmad noted, “a remarkable breakthrough that India has now been welcomed into the Muslim mainstream.”