Sushma Swaraj as Guest of Honour at OIC
7th Mar, 2019
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj attended the foreign ministers’ meeting of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation as Guest of Honour at the invitation of the UAE’s Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
- This is the first time India has been invited to the OIC after 1969, when then Industrial development minister Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed was disinvited on arriving at Morocco, after Pakistan’s President Yahya Khan lobbied against Indian participation.
- This move is a major diplomatic victory for the country and a severe blow to Pakistan that has opposed India’s entry to this group, despite India being the third largest Muslim populated country in the world.
- External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj cited verses from Quran and Rig Veda to stress that the menace of terrorism is caused by “distortion of religion” and “misguided belief”.
- She called for building pressure on the countries that support terrorist groups to dismantle terror infrastructure on their soil and stop funding such outfits.
- In the backdrop of strain in relation and irked by the invitation extended by the 57-member OIC to India as a guest of honour, Pakistan decided not to send its Foreign Minister to Abu Dhabi.
Why the OIC matters
- The OIC — formerly Organisation of Islamic Conference — is the second largest inter-governmental organisation in the world after the UN, with a membership of 57 states in four continents.
- The OIC describes itself as “the collective voice of the Muslim world”, and its stated objective is “to safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony among various people of the world”.
- The OIC has reserved its membership for Muslim-majority countries. Russia, Thailand, and couple of other small countries have Observer status.
- At the 45th session of the Foreign Ministers’ Summit in May 2018, Bangladesh, the host country, had suggested that India, where more than 10% of the world’s Muslims live, should be given Observer status, but Pakistan had opposed the proposal.
OIC has been pro-Pak on J&K
- The OIC has been generally supportive of Pakistan’s stand on Kashmir, and has issued statements criticising the alleged Indian “atrocities” in the state.
- In December 2018, the OIC General Secretariat “expressed strong condemnation of the killing of innocent Kashmiris by Indian forces in Indian-occupied Kashmir”, describing the “direct shooting at demonstrators” as a “terrorist act”, and “called upon the international community to play its role in order to reach a just and lasting solution to the conflict in Kashmir”.
OIC meet ,1969
- India was invited to the first OIC meet in Rabat, Morocco in 1969. The meeting was headed by the then Saudi monarch, King Faisal, and heads of some Muslim countries.
- India was represented by Former President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, who had to walk away from the meeting as the then Pakistan President Yahya Khan threatened to walk out of the inaugural OIC meet, if the Indian delegation was invited.
- Gurbachan Singh, the then ambassador to Morocco heading the Indian delegation was evicted from the conference.