In spite of being the third largest Muslim-populated country in the world, the conferences of OIC (Organization of Islamic Co-operation), the body of 56 Muslim countries are not used to being discussed much in India.
But this time, contrary to the norm, the 46th foreign ministers' meeting held at Abu Dhabi attracted international attention, and became a topic of active debate in India. During days of India's stand-off with Pakistan - one of OIC's founder countries - at its most tense juncture, the fact that India was invited to Abu Dhabi as a guest of honour and the boycott of the session by Pakistan in protest at that invite, became a topic of hot discussion too. ShahMahmood Qureshi, foreign minister of Pakistan, informed OIC of the Pak boycott decision explaining that his coutnry had no dispute with OIC and all its opposition was to the participation of Sushama Swaraj, Indian foreign minister at the event. However, Sushma Swaraj adeptly used the opportunity to attend it as a guest country to its maximum.
Suahma also held bilateral discussions with foreign ministers of Bangladesh, Maldives and Uzbekistan on the side lines and ensured their support to the Indian stance on the conflict with Pakistan. She also held two banquets, used them for unofficial talks and set up rare opportunities to explain the Indian position. Without naming Pakistan, she was able to hit out at countries helping terrorists and asked OIC to come forward to check rein in that support terrorist outfits, obliquely referring to Pakistan. And when India's secretary of Ministry of Foreign Affairs TS Tirumurty and Indian Ambassador to UAE arrived for the news conference after the meeting, they were elated that the minister's speech was able to win the support of OIC's member countries in general.
Saudi Arabia and UAE have already got very strong bilateral relations and military co-operation with Pakistan. As such, the invite India received to attend the OIC session, in spite of such relations, is a victory of India's robust diplomacy with Saudi and UAE. The visits by prime minister Modi to Gulf countries and the visits to India by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman have bolstered those relations too. It was on the strength of such ties that as soon as India-Pak conflict intensied, the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince made telephonic conversations with Narendra Modi and Imran Khan and underlined UAE's keenness to ensure peace and stability in the region. But the hopes that a meeting of foreign ministers of India and Pakistan would take place at the OIC venue with their intervention, were belied with the Pak boycott of the conference.
However, with the conference becoming a forum to internationalistthe Kashmir issue and to call for a political solution, diplomatic quarters have raised the fear whether the upper hand won by India at OIC can be sustained. One of the core resolutions forming part of the 'Abu Dhabi Declaration' at the end of the conference, is a call on the two countries for an urgent political solution in the interest of peace in south Asia. And another equally important resolution, among the 131 released by the conference, is a protest at the human rights violations committed by Indian military in Kashmir. The resolution criticises in strong languge the use of pellet guns that make Kashmiri youth blind. What is happening through these is that they weaken the Indian position that Kashmir is an internal matter of India, a position that we have been following ever since 1948.
On the whole, the OIC's Kashmir resolution gives credence to the charge that through the Balakot military strike Modi government opened a room for interntionalizing the Kashmir problem. The Pak contention that the political and military response to the Pulwama attack, the conflict between two nuclear countries and the continuous human rights violations against a people, all make international intervention inevitable, won wide support in OIC even in the absence of Pakistan. It was in this context that Sushma Swaraj had to reiterate after the conference that Kashmir is an internal matter of India. The angry reactions and deeds of our national leaders not only dim the image of the country in international fora, but also cause doubts being raised about our traditional stances. And that is a lesson for India from OIC as important as the upperhand we won there.