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Kashmir unrest: why India shouldn't be overly worried by OIC's stance

Catch Team | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:46 IST

As India embarks on its policy to diplomatically isolate Pakistan, the influential Organisation of Islamic Cooperation remains a roadblock.

The OIC recently again came out in support of the Kashmiri people's right to self-determination. Strategic affairs experts maintain that while India needs to engage with the OIC, it should not take the multilateral grouping's statements or resolutions too seriously. Their logic: as long as bilateral relations with the member nations are fine, such resolutions won't do much damage, despite the fact that Pakistan has routinely portrayed these as diplomatic triumphs.

Also Read: Uri attack: India garners support from OIC members to isolate Pakistan as a terror sponsor state

Indeed, India has prolific strategic ties with Saudi Arabia, Iran and the UAE, while the OIC remains a divided house, that too largely due to the dangerous sectarian agenda of a few member states.

Also, experts argue that with the Middle East in turmoil, the OIC has much more serious issues to take care of closer home.

The OIC general secretary Iyad Ali Madani recently expressed concern over the situation in the valley and called for resolution of the dispute "according to the wishes of the Kashmiri people" and the UNSC resolutions - essentially an endorsement of the Pakistani position on Kashmir. During an earlier visit to Islamabad, Madani had said that "we should not be scared of referendum".

Later, after a meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Turkey, the current head of the OIC Independent Human Rights Commission, said the organisation would send a fact finding team to Kashmir, something that won't be appreciated, much less allowed, by India. The OIC foreign ministers have also asked its Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission to submit a report on the situation in Kashmir at the next session of the council of ministers.

Working channels

India has been aggressively reaching out to the OIC member states lately as part of its plan to isolate Pakistan. Since the Uri attack, diplomats have been on their toes, working the phones to reportedly get the OIC member states to come out with statements condemning the attack. The UAE and Bahrain even supported the Indian action against terrorism without naming Pakistan, while Qatar called it a criminal act. Saudi Arabia, which had long been a key ally of Pakistan, too condemned the attack as an act of terrorism.

India has one of the largest Muslim populations in the world, and the question whether it should join the OIC keeps coming up. At the Chintan Shivir of the then ruling Congress in Jaipur in 2012, the idea was turned down as being not in consonance with the country's secular policies.

Also Read: No, Mr Modi. 'Development' is not the cure for the Kashmir conflict

As for the Turkish stance on Kashmir, it needs to be put in context. Turkey, which recently put down an attempted coup and has embarked on a virtual purge of all opposition figures, has been a key Pakistan ally with important military to military relations, and seems to be in a bind as it expands ties with India. Sometime ago, on the question of India's NSG membership, Turkey had asked that the applications of India and Pakistan be clubbed although Pakistan's application was not even up for discussion, thereby creating a hurdle for India's entry into the group. The Turkish Foreign Minister did release a statement on the Uri attack but it did not say much.

Selective criticism

Indian strategic affairs experts dismiss the OIC as a useless multilateral grouping, which, true to its character as an alternative to the secular Arab League, selectively takes up issues of the Muslim Ummah. While Kashmir continues to be an important issue for it, the organisation has not done much on the issue of Palestine, the experts point out. Moreover, some of its members such as Afghanistan and Bangladesh have been speaking out against Pakistan-sponsored terrorism.

Others note how the member countries, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, Iran and Turkey, are embroiled in conflicts in the Middle East but the OIC turns a blind eye to their transgressions or picks and chooses issues as per its convenience.

At its 13th summit earlier this year, the fact that the OIC continues to be a tool of Saudi foreign policy was on display when it came down against Iran for "supporting terrorism" and "interfering in the internal affairs of countries such as Syria and Yemen". This was ironic coming from the Saudis, who themselves have been meddling in Syria and Yemen with impunity.

Under pressure from Turkey, the OIC declared Fethullah Gülen's Hizmet as a terror outfit even as the move by opposed by Egypt's representative. Erdogan blames Gulen for the recent attempted coup and has used it as an excuse to clamp down on all dissenting voices.

Some people from Balochistan, Pakistan, who are living in exile have also questioned why the OIC never invites them to its conferences unlike a section of Kashmiris. "If OIC represents Muslims then Baloch are also Muslim. Why not inviting Baloch leaders in #UNGA71 meeting?" a BRP activist asked on twitter.

Also Read: Uri terror attack: what India may do to retaliate

First published: 25 September 2016, 8:53 IST