India In, Pak Out? Pakistan to Skip Key OIC Meet

Srinagar: In an unprecedented development Pakistan has decided to stay away from an important meeting of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) while its arch rival India will be present for the first time ever.

Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has expressed reservations at OIC extending an invitation to Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

The Indian minister has been invited as "guest of honour" at the inaugural session of the foreign ministers' conclave in Abu Dhabi next month.

Speaking on Pakistani news channel Geo News, the foreign minister 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,” he said.

Leaders from opposition parties demanded Pakistan boycott the OIC meeting. The demand of the opposition parties followed Indian aircraft violating Pakistani airspace across the LoC in Kashmir.

This is the first time in nearly 50 years that India has been offered an invitation to attend a meeting of the OIC.

For three weeks, UAE’s plan to invite India for the plenary session of the OIC was kept under wraps.

Finally in a coordinated fashion, the announcement was made both in New Delhi and Abu Dhabi on Saturday (February 23).

The external affairs ministry announced that minister Sushma Swaraj would be participating as a “guest of honour” at the inaugural plenary of the council of foreign ministers of the OIC next month at Abu Dhabi on March 1.

The OIC has 57 member states and describes itself as the “collective voice of the Muslim world”.

The state-run Emirates News Agency reported that the “friendly country of India has been named as the guest of honour in view of its great global political stature as well as its time-honoured and deeply rooted cultural and historical legacy, and its important Islamic component”.

The latest development, coming at a time when the India-Pakistan tension is running high, is being seen as a diplomatic success in New Delhi. The foreign ministry said it was a “welcome recognition of the presence of 185 million Muslims in India, their contribution to its pluralistic ethos and of India’s contribution to the Islamic world”.

OIC had denied India a seat when the grouping started.

In the last few years, India has improved ties with the Arab world especially Saudi Arabia and UAE.

“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,” said MEA.

The decision to invite a ‘guest of honour’ is the prerogative of the conference host and does not require consensus from all members. 

India was first invited as an official delegation at the Islamic Summit Conference in Rabat, Morocco in September 1969.

The Indian ambassador attended the first session, as he awaited the arrival of the Indian delegation. The head of the delegation, Congress leader Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed – who later became the president – arrived in Morocco to take part in the conference. However, he could not attend a single session. The invitation, extended unanimously, was rescinded on the insistence of Pakistan.

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