Nobody takes OIC seriously, not even its members The Statesman 29 Mar 2022 Maj Gen Harsha Kakar

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Nobody takes OIC seriously, not even its members The Statesman 29 Mar 2022

          Pakistan hosted the 48th session of the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) of the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) in Islamabad last week. The summit was overshadowed by Pakistan’s internal instability. The Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, attended the summit as a special guest. The final declaration of the summit contained approximately 70 points. Main aspects in the declaration included the Ukraine crisis, Afghanistan, Palestine, Kashmir, plight of Rohingya’s and Islamophobia. Interestingly, Pakistan also pushed though the Indian accidental missile launch into the final statement.  

All OIC summits organized by Pak, this being the fourth (including two special summits), are intended for primarily discussing India and Israel. The final statements will have a reference to Palestine and Kashmir, as Pak is the host. The last special summit on Afghanistan also had a mention of Palestine and Kashmir, though it was not meant to even be in the agenda. In the current summit, the opening address by Imran Khan indicated the direction Pakistan wanted the summit to adopt.

He stated, ‘We have failed both, the Palestinians and the people of Kashmir. I am sad to say that we have made no impact at all. They don’t take us seriously. We are a divided house, and those powers know it.’ The OIC is ignored largely because they remain selective in their comments, ignoring genuine areas of concern for Islamic nations while covering regions impacting nations hosting or attempting to influence the summit. Most OIC members are struggling for survival, ignored by the few powerful oil rich states. Influential member nations, while endorsing the declaration, have their own foreign policy objectives, which vastly differ from the declaration. These include the House of Saud, UAE etc.       

          The Chinese foreign minister, as a Pak guest, obliged his hosts by stating, ‘On Kashmir, we have heard again today the calls of many of our Islamic friends. And China shares the same hope.’ This was strongly criticized by India. The Indian spokesperson stated, ‘Other countries including China have no locus standi to comment. They should note that India refrains from public judgement of their internal issues.’ Possibly Wang’s statement was to assuage Pakistan which sent the invite.

          Comments in the joint statement concerning India included settlement of J and K in accordance with UNSC resolutions, reinstating article 370, human rights violations in Kashmir and even redrawing electoral constituencies. On the accidental missile launch it stated, ‘We call on India to fully abide by international law and norms of responsible State behaviour and conduct a joint probe with Pakistan to accurately establish facts.’ Evidently, these were pushed by Pakistan as none of these issues concern other attendees.

Redrawing electoral boundaries may possibly not even be understood by OIC members as almost none of them are genuine democracies. Mamoon Alabbasi, a political analyst focusing on the Middle East, stated in al Jazeera, ‘Most importantly, the OIC doesn’t have a unified voice because most of its member countries are not democracies.’ India hit back, as was expected. The Indian spokesperson stated, ‘The statements and resolutions adopted at the meeting demonstrate both the irrelevance of the OIC as a body and the role of Pakistan as its manipulator.’

          The fact that the OIC discussed Islamophobia on one hand and invited the Chinese foreign minister on the other, where millions of Muslim Uighurs are incarcerated displayed its superficiality in addressing the subject. Comments in the joint statement and pushing a resolution on it in the UNGA mean nothing if the CFM does not adhere to it. While the world sanctions Chinese responsible for Uighur detentions, companies manufacturing in China using forced Uighur labour stop production lines, the OIC legalizes Chinese atrocities on Muslims. If this is not a farce, wonder what would be.  The declaration also mentioned joint mediation in Ukraine by OIC members and China.

While the summit was discussing Palestine and seeking to call out Israel in Islamabad, the Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, was hosting the Israeli PM and UAE leadership in Cairo in a summit. A number of Arab states have diplomatic relations with Israel while many have maintained close ties with it, despite officially not recognizing it. Immediately post the summit, Israel conducted a ‘historic summit’ with US Secretary of state, Anthony Blinken, and his counterparts from UAE, Bahrain and Morocco, all countries which have recently recognized Israel. So much for OIC unity.   

When the summit was commenting on Indian atrocities in Kashmir, a UAE business delegation was visiting it, exploring avenues for investment. Abdullah Shibani, a Delegate stated, ‘We came here (Kashmir) for something, it means that there is a step that we have already taken, a step we are taking now and a step we will be taking in future. There is a lot of potential (for investment) here.’ Evidently, what Pakistan projected was devoid of reality. It had to lie, and it did. No wonder OIC statements carry no weight.

OIC summits have made promises on Afghanistan and even established a fund. However there has been no pledge on contributions. Like in most of its earlier resolutions, promises remain promises with hardly any forward movement on ground. Not a single member of OIC (with the exception of Pakistan being a neighbour) has accepted any refugees from Afghanistan. Its summits never mention Syria or Libya, where proxies of OIC members battle each other for control over the country. This only certifies the fact that the summit and its declarations lack reality and purpose.

As Talha Abdulrazaq, a Middle East expert at the University of Exeter’s Strategy and Security Institute, states, ‘OIC resolutions aren’t binding. They are just a declaration of the general feeling of the leaders of the Islamic world.’ OIC statements are issued on drafts prepared by the host nation, in this case, Pakistan. It has therefore been rightly commented by India that the meet was ‘hijacked by Pakistan.’ Members agree to the declaration as a routine as issues covered never concern them. India should adopt the Israel model and even refuse to comment on OIC summit declarations, terming it as an ‘has been organization.’