Pakistan will hold a ministerial meeting of the 57-member Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Jammu and Kashmir in April 2020, said official media in Islamabad. The development, according to diplomats, is linked to a broader Saudi-Pakistan deal.
The announcement came days after recently-appointed Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud visited Islamabad and met with the Pakistani leadership, including Prime Minister Imran Khan and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on December 26.
“I told the Saudi Foreign Minister that the OIC must make a strong statement on India’s Citizenship Amendment Act as well as on the situation in [Jammu and Kashmir],” Mr. Qureshi said in a press conference on Sunday.
According to Radio Pakistan, the officials had discussed holding the meeting of ministers of the OIC grouping of Muslim majority countries, led by Saudi Arabia, to focus on the “human rights situation in occupied Jammu and Kashmir and enactment of an anti-Muslim law in India”. The report added that the ministerial meeting “is expected to be held in Islamabad in April 2020.”
The Ministry of External Affairs declined to comment on the development until the meeting was officially announced by the OIC . If confirmed, the move would be a setback to the government’s efforts to increase its engagement with the Islamic grouping, including attending the OIC conference in Abu Dhabi earlier this year.
“The Arab world largely ignored the issue of Kashmir until Pakistan was forced to reach out to Turkey, Iran and Malaysia. It is only because of the new Muslim bloc’s formation that the older bloc — the OIC — realised their mistake," said Mustafa Nawaz Khokar, Chairman of Pakistan's Senate’s Functional Committee on Human Rights.
Both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been muted in their comments on the government’s actions in Kashmir as well as the CAA subsequently.
Diplomats say the decision of the Saudi leadership to send its foreign minister on his first visit abroad to Pakistan, as well as to agree to an OIC statement on the Citizenship (Amendment) Act last week stems from Riyadh’s concerns over losing control of key Islamic nations to a parallel formation, headed by Malaysia and Turkey, more than a desire to turn away from India.
On Dec 19, Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohammad had convened the “Kuala Lumpur” summit, with the leaders of Turkey, Iran and Qatar, calling for reforms in the Muslim world.
Pakistan PM Imran Khan, who had agreed to attend the summit, pulled out at the last minute, after the Saudi Crown Prince reportedly advised him to.
“The bargain is clear: Saudi Arabia leads OIC nations to showcase its control of the Islamic world, while allowing its members to use the forum to attack their own rivals,” said India’s former Ambassador to KSA, Oman and the UAE, Talmiz Ahmed. “While OIC resolutions mean very little in real terms, Pakistan wants to use the forum against India.” In that sense, agreeing to an OIC foreign minister’s meeting would be part of a deal where Pakistan reaffirmed Saudi Arabia’s dominance and refused to travel to Malaysia in exchange. ”
As a result, New Delhi will watch plans for the possible meeting closely, especially given the government’s push to improve relations with KSA and UAE, including visits by PM Modi to both countries in 2019.
Responding to the announcement of the OIC meeting , Pakistan’s Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry said India is getting isolated because of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s policies. “The Islamic world and every conscientious citizen of the world opposed Modi’s policies. OIC conference is just another expression of India’s deteriorating international image. The world is getting more and more concerned about Muslims in India and particularly about Muslims in Kashmir,” Mr Chaudhry said.
Chairman of the Senate’s Functional Committee on Human Rights, Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, believes that it was about time that the OIC woke up. “The Arab world largely ignored the issue of Kashmir until Pakistan was forced to reach out to Turkey, Iran and Malaysia. It is only because of the new Muslim bloc’s formation that the older bloc — the OIC — realised their mistake. The issue of Kashmir is not about Muslims only but an issue of human rights abuses. Yet the way it was ignored by the OIC was surprising. Finally, sense has prevailed.”
(With inputs from Mehmal Sarfraz from Lahore)