Monday, January 30, 2006

India at the OIC

Saudi King Abdullah's recent official visit to India for sure raised eyebrows in Pakistan and the reason is not too far to seek.

Abdullah, who was the chief guest of the Republic Day on January 26, said that he was keen to see India play an active role in the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC).

Despite knowing that Pakistan has always been a strong opponent to India's entry into the OIC, Abdullah didn't mind adding that it will be very beneficial if the application is put forth by a country like Pakistan.

Although Pakistan's Foreign Office has not outrightly rejected an observer status for India at the OIC, a section of media in the country does give that impression.

"We are, however, convinced that India, in no way, is entitled to attain observer status with an organisation that represents the Muslim Ummah (community) and its aspirations.

"We fail to understand on what basis India can stake claim to get this privilege. Does India subscribe to the viewpoint of the Muslim Ummah on various issues?" asks an editorial in Pakistan Observer.

The OIC, established in 1969 is an inter-governmental organisation consisting of 57 member states, with an aim to safeguard the interests of Muslims all over the world.

According to Daily Times, Pakistan has in mind two criteria that could be seen as "reservations".

"…The state should be a Muslim majority, under which India doesn't qualify and never will unless the rules are changed and the Islamic character of members is redefined."

India has always staked claim to be a part of OIC as the Muslim population in India is far more than that in Pakistan.
However, under the charter, the OIC embraces both Muslim and non-Muslim states as observer, though different set of rules apply for granting observer status to Muslim and non-Muslim states.

The review of the rules was initiated following the interest shown by number of non-Muslim countries to secure an observer status at the OIC.

The second reservation is that an observer should not have an active dispute with a Muslim state.

In a very strong-worded edit, the Pakistan Observer further asks: "Can a country that tramples rights of the Muslims in Occupied Kashmir and treat them as second grade citizens be a member of organisation that represents solely Muslims?"

Interestingly, the paper doesn't hesitate to mention that Pakistan too is responsible for creating enabling atmosphere for India to lobby for the membership via the CBMs with India.

"…It might make sense to consider allowing an observer status to India as part of the policy of normalisation that Islamabad is already pursuing at the bilateral level with New Delhi."

OIC consists of oil-rich countries like Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Egypt and others as its members.

The Conference has 11 observers which includes United Nations, European Union, Cyprus, Thailand, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the latest entrant - Russia in 2005.

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