New Delhi, Feb 23 (IANS) In a significant development, India has been invited to attend a meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) for the first time, with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj scheduled to address its council of ministers meet in UAE next month as the “guest of honour”.
The minister has been invited by her United Arab Emirates counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan to address the inaugural plenary of the 46th Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers slated to take place in Abu Dhabi on March 1-2.
“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 UAE government said while announcing the invite to India.
The External Affairs Ministry, in a statement, said that it was happy to accept the invitation which was 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.
“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 the statement issued on Friday.
It said the invitation was “a milestone” in the bilateral comprehensive strategic partnership with the UAE.
“India is, therefore, happy to accept the invitation to attend the Inaugural Plenary of the OIC meeting and we thank the leadership of the UAE for their invitation,” the statement said.
The announcement of invite to India came days after the Pulwama terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir in which a suicide bomber targeted a bus in a convoy killing 40 CRPF personnel. India has linked Pakistan with the attack as Jaish-e-Mohammed, which has claimed responsibility for the attack, is based in the neighbouring country.
Pakistan has been raking up Kashmir issue at the OIC meetings and India has rejected resolutions passed on Jammu and Kashmir, saying the organisation has no locus standi on matters strictly internal to India.
Bangladesh had last year suggested restructuring the OIC’s charter to pave way for inclusion of countries with large Muslim populations like India as “observer” states. Turkey also supported such reforms. India has third largest Muslim population in the world.
Syria has supported India’s position on Jammu and Kashmir and India’s relations with several other member countries of the OIC including Indonesia have been on the upswing.
Sources said Saudi Arabia showed a very clear recognition of India’s position on Jammu and Kashmir during the visit earlier this week of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that it was a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan.
The OIC meeting in Abu Dhabi is expected to consider supporting initiatives to promote peace and security, counter-extremism, combat the exploitation of religion and hate speech by inculcating the values of moderation and tolerance.
The meeting, with the theme ’50 years of Islamic cooperation: Road map for prosperity and development’, will see participation of 56 member states and five observer states.
The two-day conference, which coincides with the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the OIC, will also discuss ways to enhance development opportunities and inter-cooperation by looking for opportunities to accelerate the pace of economic-cooperative development.
It will also discuss decisions related to economic, humanitarian, science, technology, informatics, legal, regulatory, media, administrative and financial matters, as well as the OIC-2025: Programme of Action.