The significance of the invitation by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to India to attend its 46th ministerial conference in Abu Dhabi (March 1-2) lies in the fact that it came after the Pulwama terrorist strike by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed, which boastfully took credit for the outrage. This was a clear indication that the organisation of 57 Islamic nations was expressing its aversion to terrorism, even when it emanated from a member state (Pakistan) to target a non-member (India). More, the OIC walked the further step to invite India’s external affairs minister as its “guest of honour”. Nor was India disinvited when Pakistan threatened not to attend if the invitation to New Delhi was not withdrawn even after the Indian Air Force struck at Balakot, violating Pakistan’s airspace.
Thus, Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi decided to absent himself from the gathering in the UAE. Perhaps he did not wish to embarrass himself as the issue of terrorism, and its threat to regional peace and stability, was bound to have a high profile at the meeting as India would be present in a special capacity.
The theme of the OIC ministerial now underway is “Roadmap for Prosperity and Development”. Terrorism, which eats into the vitals of any society, stands in stark contrast to this goal. External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj’s address at the meeting pointed to this with clarity. Ms Swaraj noted that the young would not be satisfied with roadmaps, but would press for roads. It was left unsaid that the existence of terrorism serves as a roadblock in fulfilling such aspirations.
Since ministerial meetings serve as planning bodies for upcoming summit meetings, it would seem that Pakistan has weakened its case to be a significant voice in preparing for the OIC’s golden jubilee celebration. Of course, it is to be seen if the Abu Dhabi ministerial includes terrorism as a subject for a longer-term conversation.
India had been invited at the Rabat (Morocco) inaugural conference of the OIC in 1969. Pakistan managed to scuttle the invitation on the ground that India was in conflict with it, an Islamic country and a member state. Much has changed since then.
If in the 1960s, India’s engagement with the developing world was of an intensely political nature — around the subject of decolonisation — through the nonaligned movement, of which this country was a founding leader, India today intensively deals on the economic front with all parts of the globe, not least key Islamic states in the Gulf and West Asia. This convergence explains the OIC’s solicitousness in giving India space on the question of terrorism, of which they too are victims. The OIC opportunity to us will also help cool hyper-nationalist ardours in some quarters that recommend broadening of the conflict with Pakistan.