India invited to OIC meet for first time

The UAE visit of Sushma Swaraj has come  at a time when tensions between Indian and Pakistan are on an all-time high,  reports Tehelka Bureau

India has been invited for the first time to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation as “Guest of Honour”. The official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, Raveesh Kumar confirmed through a tweet that External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj will attend the 46th Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

The UAE visit of Sushma Swaraj has come at a time when tensions between Indian and Pakistan are on an all-time high as one Indian Air Force pilot remains in the custody of Pakistan. This is the first time India has been invited as the guest of honour at an OIC meeting. The OIC is an international organisation founded in 1969 and works towards protecting and safeguarding the rights of the Muslim world. It is an organization of Muslim majority nations.

The invitation for the event was extended by HH Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Foreign Minister of the UAE, and accepted by Sushma Swaraj. Sushma Swaraj addressed the inaugural plenary in Abu Dhabi. The Islamic meet held on March 1 and 2.

Extending the invitation, the UAE Foreign Ministry said the “friendly Republic of India” had been invited as the guest of honour for “all its international political weight and diverse cultural heritage and an important Islamic component.”

Responding to the invitation, Indian Ministry of External Affairs had said, “We see this invitation as the desire of the enlightened leadership of the UAE to go beyond our rapidly growing close bilateral ties and forge a true multifaceted partnership at the multilateral and international level.”

It added, “We see this invitation as a milestone in our comprehensive strategic partnership with the UAE. We also see this invitation as 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.” The invitation shows that the UAE wants to go beyond parochial aims and recognizes close bilateral ties with India. The invitation can lead to further improving ties and forging a multifaceted partnership at the international level. In fact the Ministry of External Affairs has thanked UAE leadership for the invitation.

Last year, Bangladesh proposed the restructuring of the charter of the OIC to pave way for the inclusion of non-Muslim countries like India as an “observer state” of the 50-year old group in.

India’s presence at OIC is crucial, especially at a time when it has been pitching diplomatic efforts against Pakistan to isolate it internationally following the Pulwama terror attack in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed. The OIC has usually been supportive of Pakistan and, often sided with Islamabad on the Kashmir issue.

Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had threatened the OIC that he won’t attend the meet after the latter extended an invitation to Sushma Swaraj to be the guest of honour.  The invitation was opposed by Pakistan who threatened to boycott the meet over the Indian minister’s participation.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has reportedly said, “I have spoken to the United Arab Emirates foreign minister and have expressed my reservations over her invitation. I have made myself clear that India has shown aggression. Under the current circumstances, it will not be possible for me to attend OIC meeting where Sushma Swaraj is present. In fact earlier Pakistan was all set to attend the meet and wanted to raise the issue of airstrikes by India into its territory but changed its plans after UAE extended special invitation to Sushma Swaraj to bethe “guest of honour”.