Foreign Policy Watch: India-Pakistan

Explained: Decoding the OIC’s invite to ‘Guest of Honour’ India


Mains Paper 2: IR | India & its neighborhood relations

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: OIC

Mains level: Implications of India’s invite to OIC


  • India overcame a five-decade-old hurdle to get itself invited to Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) meet.
  • It is 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 meeting will be held in Abu Dhabi on March 1 and 2, for which Swaraj has been invited by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Foreign Minister of the UAE as the “Guest of Honour”.

Why the OIC matters

  • The OIC — formerly Organisation of Islamic Conference — is the second largest inter-governmental organisation in the world after the UN, with a membership of 57 states in four continents.
  • The OIC describes itself as “the collective voice of the Muslim world”.
  • Its stated objective is “to safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony among various people of the world”.

Membership of OIC

  • The OIC has reserved its membership for Muslim-majority countries.
  • Russia, Thailand, and couple of other small countries have Observer status.
  • At the 45th session in May 2018, Bangladesh, the host country, had suggested that India, where more than 10% of the world’s Muslims live, should be given Observer status.
  • However Pakistan had opposed the proposal.

Why India is the Guest of Honour?

I. Improved ties with UAE, Saudi

  • The first-time invitation to India to be a Guest of Honour at the Plenary, especially at a time of heightened tensions with Pakistan is a significant diplomatic victory.
  • The invitation indicated “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 is considered as a milestone in our comprehensive strategic partnership with the UAE.

II. Hosting the Prince

  • The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, was a very special Chief Guest at the 68th Republic Day celebrations in 2017.
  • It was 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 invite may be an important outcome of the MBS visit, apart from being an indication of New Delhi’s improved ties with both Saudi and the UAE, and the Gulf region as a whole.

But, it has been pro-Pak on J&K

  • The OIC has been generally supportive of Pakistan’s stand on Kashmir, and has issued statements criticizing the alleged Indian activities in the state.
  • The 2017 session of the Council of OIC Foreign Ministers had adopted a resolution “reaffirming the unwavering support… for the Kashmiri people in their just cause.
  • At the 2018 meeting in Dhaka, however, “J&K” figured in only one of the 39 resolutions adopted, that too, along with 12 other states or regions worldwide.
  • Pakistan had complained about the Dhaka Declaration, and accused Bangladesh of circulating the text very late.

A new India-Pak tussle is expected

  • Indeed, India has excellent relations individually with almost all member nations of the OIC.
  • This is a reason why it can at times afford to not take the statements issued by the group as a whole seriously.
  • Despite the invitation to MEA — who can be expected to bring up the terrorist attacks in India in her address — it is important to watch what line the OIC takes on J&K in its final declaration.
  • It is certain that Pakistan would be making every effort and behind-the-scenes negotiations for a statement on Kashmir, perhaps using last year’s report of the UN Human Rights Office that criticized India.
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