Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)

Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)

Basic and Backgrounds

  • Organization of Islamic Cooperation is an international organization founded in 1969, consisting of 57 member states.
  • It is the second largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations.
  • The organization states that it is “the collective voice of the Muslim world”and works to “safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony“.
  • The OIC has permanent delegations to the United Nations and the European Union.
  • Permanent Secretariat is in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
  • Like NAM again, the OIC is a toothless tiger when it comes to dealing with squabbles among member states.

Membership

  • It is the second largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations with a membership of 57 states.
  • Of these, 47 are Muslim Majority countries.
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina; Central African Republic; Thailand; Russia and Turkish Cypriot State are the observer country.

Objective

  • The main motive of the organisation is to the safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony among various people of the world.
  • The Organization was established upon a decision of the historical summit which took place in Rabat, Kingdom of Morocco 25 September 1969 as a result of criminal arson of Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem.

Priority Areas

  • The priority areas include issues of Peace and Security, Palestine and Al-Quds, Poverty Alleviation, Counter-terrorism, Investment and Finance, Food Security, Science and Technology, Climate Change and Sustainability, Moderation, Culture and Interfaith Harmony, Empowerment of Women, Joint Islamic Humanitarian Action, Human Rights and Good Governance, among others

Bodies of OIC

  • Among the OIC’s key bodies: the Islamic Summit, the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM), the General Secretariat, in addition to the Al-Quds Committee and three permanent committees concerned with science and technology, economy and trade, and information and culture.
  • There are also specialized organs under the banner of the OIC including the Islamic Development Bank and the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, as well as subsidiary and affiliate organs that play a vital role in boosting cooperation in various fields among the OIC member states.

India and Islamic World

  • In the last few years, India has improved ties with the Islamic world from Saudi Arabia to Indonesia, while building on good relations with countries like Qatar and Oman.
  • While it was Bangladesh that floated the idea of India becoming an observer at the OIC in 2018, the UAE invite offered India an opportunity to address the forum.
  • The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (MBZ), was a very special Chief Guest at the 68th Republic Day celebrations in 2017, the first time that India laid out the Republic Day red carpet for a leader who was neither a Head of State nor Head of Government.
  • The Crown Prince MBZ had earlier visited India in February 2016, following a visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the UAE in August 2015.
  • Recently, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman visited India.

OIC’s stance on J&K

  • The OIC has been generally supportive of Pakistan’s stand on Kashmir.
  • It has earlier even issued statements criticising the alleged Indian “atrocities” in the state.
  • The 2017 session of Council of OIC Foreign Ministers had adopted a resolution reaffirming the unwavering support for the Kashmiri people in their just cause.
  • Recently in December 2018 too, the OIC expressed strong condemnation of the killing of innocent Kashmiris by Indian forces in Indian-occupied Kashmir.
  • It called upon the international community to play its role in order to reach a just and lasting solution to the conflict in Kashmir.

46th Session of CFM of OIC

  • Theme of the meet: “50 years of Islamic cooperation: The road map for prosperity and development,”.
  • External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj was invited to deliver an address at the 46th Session of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) summit, held in Abu Dhabi on 1-2 March. 
  • It adopted the “Abu Dhabi declaration”.

Abu Dhabi declaration

  • It was named “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together” and it seeks to encourage stronger relationships between people to promote coexistence among peoples and to confront extremism and its negative Impacts.
  • The OIC refrained from giving in to Pakistan’s demands to include Kashmir issue in the final declaration.

India – OIC Relation

  • India’s relationship with Pakistan has always been tense and has a direct impact on India-OIC relations, with Pakistan being a founding member of the OIC. India has pushed for the OIC to accept India as a member, Pakistan opposes India’s entry into the OIC.
  • 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.
  • In 2002, it was Qatar that first proposed observer status for India at the OIC foreign ministers’ meet but Pakistan had consistently blocked the move.
  • In 2018, Bangladesh along with Turkey proposed restructuring of the charter of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to pave way for the inclusion of non-Muslim countries like India as an ‘observer state’.
  • For the first time in five decades, the United Arab Emirates invited foreign minister of India Sushma Swaraj to attend the inaugural plenary 46th meeting of OIC foreign ministers. (Pakistan boycotted the meet)
  • From the mid-1990s, when this Contact Group was formed, it has issued several statements on behalf of Pakistan (on Kashmir issue)
  • The United Arab Emirates, for instance, conferred the “Order of Zayed”, its highest civilian award on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, more than a week after New Delhi’s moves on Article 370, and declared that Kashmir was India’s internal matter.

Significance of this invitation

  • This is the first-time invitation to India to be a Guest of Honour at the Plenary of the OIC.
  • At the 45th session of the Foreign Ministers’ Summit in 2018, host country Bangladesh noted that India had more than 10% of the world’s Muslims live.
  • Bangladesh thus proposed that India be given the Observer status, but Pakistan opposed the proposal.
  • So the present invite is a welcome recognition of the presence of 185 million Muslims in India and of their contribution to its pluralistic ethos.
  • Especially, it comes at the time of heightened tensions with Pakistan following the Pulwama terrorist attack.
  • Hence, it is seen as a significant diplomatic victory for New Delhi.
  • It also signals India’s improved ties with both Saudi and the UAE, and the Gulf region as a whole.
  • It indicates their desire to go beyond the bilateral ties and forge a true multifaceted partnership at the multilateral and international level.

Arguments in favour of India’s membership at the OIC

  • Second largest Muslim Community: Though India is neither a part of the Muslim world nor a Muslim majority state in statistical terms, yet it host the second largest community of Muslims in the world. Countries like Thailand and Russia are observer members, despite having a significant minority Muslim population.
  • West Asian Diaspora: There are also some eight million Indians in West Asia, who contribute to these economies as well as cultural richness.
  • Co-operation in Strategic and economic matters: Apart from a large diaspora, India is the third largest economy in the world and one of the biggest importers of hydrocarbons like gas and oil. West Asia and `India’s growing economic and energy interdependence makes it difficult for the former to ignore the latter.
  • Countering Pakistan: India’s deepening ties with Islamic world could act as a bulwark to prevent Pakistan from using the secretariat and OIC forum for its own propaganda.

Challenges faced by India in OIC:

  • OIC’s stance on Jammu and Kashmir: It has been generally supportive of Pakistan’s concerns over Jammu and Kashmir. With regards to this, the OIC has been issuing statements criticizing alleged atrocities and human rights violations in the state.
  • Presence of Pakistan: Pakistan has always objected India’s entry into the group, stating that any country wishing to get observer status should not be involved in any dispute with an OIC member state.
  • Position on Israel: OIC condemns any arbitrary steps by Israel which undermine the international efforts to reach the two-states solution and achieve peace. Though traditionally, India has been a supporter of the two-State solution, its deepening relation with Israel can be a challenge.

Way Forward

  • For India to become a full member, special concession has to be invoked as in the case of other Muslim minority states that became OIC members.
  • However, given the current state of relations between India and Pakistan and the sensitivities of managing their own domestic public opinion, OIC members are unlikely to offer India full membership.
  • On the other hand, Observer status does not entail voting rights, and Pakistan will continue to embarrass India by raising the J&K dispute in the OIC even if India had Observer status.
  • India has good reason to be pleased that Pakistan can no longer veto India’s engagement with critical states of the Middle East.
  • For the emerging forces of political moderation and social modernisation in the Middle East, India is a more attractive partner than Pakistan.
  • Therefore, in the given circumstances, the best option would be for India to continue to work with individual members of the OIC to establish friendly relations and deepen bilateral cooperation, and work to negate the designs of Pakistan within the OIC ranks.

 

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