The Organization of Islamic Conference could not Raise the Issues of Muslims Particularly Kashmir Issue: Dr. Akram Zaheer

Pakistan hosted 48th session of the Council of Foreign Minister (CFM) of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation on 22, 23 March 2022. The theme of the conference was “Partnering for the Unity, Justice and Development”. The State Councilor and Foreign Minister of China Wang Yi also attended as a special guest. Senior officials from non-OIC countries and senior representatives from regional and international organizations, including the United Nations, the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council also attended the conference. The CFM reviewed the “critical human rights and humanitarian situation” in Indian-administered Kashmir, while the Ministerial Meeting of OIC Contact Group for Jammu and Kashmir also was on the sidelines.

The OIC is a diverse and very colorful world with diverse cultural, economic, political and social differences. The Muslim world has always been at the center of global politics and economics since its emergence in the early 7th century. Although the Muslim world is a center of world politics, economics and history but unfortunately, it is a host of current popular conflicts. There are certainly various reasons for this growing tension and political turmoil, from economics and politics to religion. Energy is certainly at the center of most of these problems, because it is the main source of power in this new era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Energy-rich countries, whether oil or gas, dominate the region’s focus. Moreover, most of these energy-rich but relatively weak economies are Muslim countries.

The Organization of Islamic Conference could not raise the issues of Muslim particularly Kashmir issue in order to make the Muslim world understand and settle. Kashmir is one of the most long standing disputes waiting for the settlement. The United nations have passed several resolutions but due to lack of enforcement mechanism of peacekeeping and peace building efforts all in vain. Pakistan also has repeatedly tried unsuccessfully to gain international support against Indian occupation on Kashmir, while India insists that the repeal of Article 370 and the division of the former state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories is its internal matter. For the past seven decades, they have been fighting for their inalienable right to self-determination, India’s actions violated UN Security Council resolutions and increased the risk of a confrontation between the two countries. While India insists that the repeal of Article 370 and the division of the former state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories is an internal matter, Pakistan has repeatedly failed to garner international support against India.

OIC has generally supported Pakistan’s position on Kashmir and issued statements criticizing the alleged Indian “atrocities” in the State / Centrally Administered Territories. For the last three decades, these announcements have become an annual ceremonial, meaning nothing to India. After India repealed Article 370 in Kashmir, Pakistan lobbied the OIC to condemn the move. Surprisingly for Pakistan, the top leaders of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, both Muslim countries, issued scathing statements and did not criticize New Delhi as strongly as Islamabad had hoped. Over the past year, Islamabad has tried to provoke sentiment in Islamic countries, but only a few of them, Turkey and Malaysia, have openly criticized India.

In 2019 Macca Summit, the OIC criticized the alleged Indian “atrocities” in the state. In 2018, the OIC General Secretariat “strongly condemned the killing of innocent Kashmiris by Indian forces in Indian-occupied Kashmir”, calling “direct firing on protesters” an “act of terrorism”. It called on the international community to play its role in reaching a just and lasting solution to the Kashmir issue. However, at the 2018 meeting in Dhaka, “Jammu and Kashmir” was included in only one of the 39 resolutions passed, along with 12 other states or territories around the world. Pakistan accuses Bangladesh of circulating text too late even a resolution passed the day after Swaraj’s speech in Abu Dhabi condemned “atrocities and human rights violations” in Kashmir. The OIC Foreign Ministers’ 2017 meeting expressed “deep reaffirmation of the unwavering support of the people of Kashmir for their just cause” and “deep concern over the grave human rights violations by the Indian occupying forces since 1947”.

India has consistently emphasized that Jammu and Kashmir is “an integral part of India and is strictly India’s internal affairs.” The argument with which India has made claim it is untrue because Kashmiri accepted. New Delhi has maintained its “consistent and notorious” position that the OIC did not have a concrete position. India went a step further, saying sectarianism was being used by its neighboring country “which has a disgusting record of religious tolerance, fundamentalism and persecution of minorities.”

 India has good relations with almost all of its member countries. Relations with the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have improved significantly, especially in recent years. The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, was a very special guest at the 68th Republic Day celebrations in 2017. For the first time, India rolled out the Republic Day red carpet for a leader who it’s not his head. He was neither the head of state nor the head of government. The Crown Prince had previously visited India in February 2016, following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United Arab Emirates in August 2015. In 2019, just days before the OIC’s invitation to Swaraj, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited India. The invitation could be a significant result of the Muhammad Bin Salman’s visit, as well as an indication of India’s good relations with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The OIC includes two of India’s closest neighbors, Bangladesh and the Maldives. Indian diplomats say the two countries privately acknowledge that they do not want to complicate their bilateral relations with India over Kashmir, but want to play games with the OIC. Therefore, India has rightly rejected the OIC’s latest attempt to reconcile its position on Jammu and Kashmir. At the same time, it wants to join the OIC through key members to counter Pakistan’s position on Kashmir and the geopolitical interests Islamabad has in South Asia.

Now again Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan raised the issue of Kashmir in the Organization of the Islamic Conference and criticized India for its “illegal” decision to repeal Article 370. He highlighted the challenges facing the Muslim community, the conflicts in the Middle East, and the “denial of the right to self-determination” for the people of Palestine and Kashmir.

He further stated that Muslims have failed to raise the voice for both the Palestinians and the people of Kashmir. The Ummah did not take these issues seriously and we are a divided.” While India has expressed its desire for normal neighborly relations with Islamabad in an environment free from terrorism, hostility and violence, it has made it clear that Jammu and Kashmir was, is and always will be an “integral part” of the country.

The latest statements of OIC on Kashmir are a reminder of the need to be attentive to regional and geopolitical developments and not to be relaxed as they were in the past. However, the ICO is a political organization and the changing geopolitical dynamics and events in the world may affect its position on issues relevant to South Asian Region particularly on Kashmir. Despite the ups and downs in Pakistan’s relations with major Islamic countries, Pakistan is part of the OIC and is of concern to India.

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