7 PM | India at OIC | 6 March, 2019


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Recently India’s decades-long endeavour to attain the full membership of the second largest intergovernmental group – the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) got the major boost when it attended the OIC’s 46th session of council of foreign ministers meeting as a guest of honour on the invitation by the host country – United Arab of Emirates (UAE).

It was also being seen as a major setback for Pakistan as it was opposing the invitation to India and threatened not to attend the meeting.

About OIC

  • Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is the second largest inter-governmental organisation after the United Nations, with the membership of 57 states, covering four continents.
  • The OIC is the collective voice of the Muslim world to ensure and safeguard their interest on economic socio and political areas. The OIC has Institutions, which implement its programmes. Its Headquarters is in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
  • While its common members are countries with majority of Muslim population but countries with very few Muslims like Russia and Thailand are its observer members.

OIC is composed of following main bodies:

  • The Islamic Summit, composed of Kings and Heads of State and Government of Member States.
  • The Council of Foreign Ministers
  • The Council of Foreign Ministers

The present Charter of the Organization was adopted by the Eleventh Islamic Summit held in Dakar on 13-14 March 2008 which laid down it aims to:

  • Enhance and consolidate the bonds of fraternity and solidarity among the Member States;
  • unify the efforts of the Member States in view of the challenges faced by the Islamic world in particular and the international community in general.
  • Respect the right of self-determination and non-interference in the domestic affairs of each member state.
  • Reaffirm its support for the rights of peoples as stipulated in the UN Charter and international law;

Why India with a significant Muslim population is not a member state?

  • Despite India having the second largest population of Muslims next to Indonesia in the world, it has not yet found a desirable position within the organisation. Reasons behind that can be understood by looking at the following facts:
  • India was invited to attend the first summit of the OIC 50 years ago in 1969 in Morocco. But the Indian delegation had to return midway due to a withdrawal of the invitation after Pakistan’s objection.
  • Pakistan’s consistent plotting toward India’s non-entry in the grouping has ensured even today that India is neither a member nor an observer of the OIC

Why India was invited despite opposition from Pakistan?

It is the first time India is attending the OIC conference, that too as a guest of honour, that can be credited to few significant developments in past couple of years. The credit can be given to the increasing stature of India among international community.

  • Qatar had first proposed observer status for India in 2002.
  • Last year, Turkey and Bangladesh had asked for India’s inclusion
  • India’s ties with West Asia specially with UAE has become stronger after several visits by Prime Minister. UAE, which issued the invitation, has Indians as one-third of its population and invested heavily in India.
  • Crown prince of UAE was also the chief guest for India on Republic day.
  • Another important development was visit to India of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman.
  • West Asia and India’s growing economic and energy interdependence makes it difficult for the former to ignore the latter.

Is there any downside of joining OIC?

  • India fundamentally is a secular nation, while OIC is an organisation formed to protect interest of muslims around the world, thus joining it would go against India’s fundamental principles.
  • India, compared to Pakistan would not be valued there as Pakistan is very close to many member countries like Iran and Turkey with whom it shared membership of CENTO (Central Treaty Organisation, formerly the Baghdad Pact).
  • Pakistan had great leverage with the conservative Arab monarchies for ideological reasons and because of the fact that its military was willing to provide the Arab monarchies with well-trained soldiers

What is the importance of OIC for India?

  • First and foremost, India has managed to attend the conference even after Pakistan threat to boycott it and when the tension between 2 countries was at Level, where even war was possible. Thus, it is a great diplomatic victory for India.
  • Secondly, many oil rich countries are member of this grouping, thus engagement with it can be beneficial for India in term of energy security.
  • Thirdly, Pakistan has been using this platform to spread misinformation regarding India on the issue of Kashmir. With the presence of India, it will be easy to counter any misinformation.
  • Fourthly, these countries provide employment for almost 6 million Indians and fetch a major part of remittances to India.

How successful was India’s visit?

Although invitation was a success in itself, but still what India could achieve out of this meet is of much more significance, let’s have a look at that:

  • India’s foreign minister addressed the meet and asserted that the war against terrorism, which was destabilising regions and putting the world at great peril, was not against any religion.
  • India was able to indirectly target Pakistan for terrorism
  • But There were many events which went against the interest of India, such as:
    • Abu Dhabi declaration issued at the end of the meeting did not contain even a simple expression of thanks to the Indian External Affairs Minister.
    • While OIC welcomed Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan to hand over the Indian pilot as a gesture of goodwill to de-escalate tensions in the region, it didn’t mention Pulwama terrorist attack.
    • One of the most important setbacks was resolution by the OIC’s ministerial meeting in Abu Dhabi condemning state terrorism in Indian-held Kashmir (IHK).

Thus, OIC meet had been a mixed bag of setbacks and achievement for India.

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