Pakistan is scheduled to hold the next OIC (Organization of Islamic Countries) Foreign ministers meet on 23-24th March at Islamabad. As per details available, 46 countries have confirmed participation. This summit comes at a time when Pakistan faces its worst political crisis in recent times. The no-trust motion against Imran Khan is awaiting discussion and political temperatures are running high. Imran is being sidelined with his allies walking away and the army displaying a neutral stand. Members of the OIC are aware that this summit would be possibly the last international event of the current government.
The fear of the summit being overshadowed by the internal political climate is such that SM Qureshi, who is hosting the summit, stated in a press briefing, ‘I humbly request the leaders of all opposition parties to cooperate in holding the OIC meeting and do not disturb it.’ He added that the summit is being hosted by Pakistan and not the government. All political marches into Islamabad as part of the no-trust move would now be held immediately after the summit.
The theme for the current summit is, ‘Partnering for Unity, Justice and Development,’ an aspect missing within the OIC grouping and unlikely to change in the future. Unity never existed within the OIC, with economically strong nations having no desire to support the weak as also there are major differences within. Most OIC members face internal instability and strife.
To obtain local support and project a positive image of his government, Qureshi stated that Kashmir would be on the main agenda as would the incident of the Indian accidental missile firing. It also, on behalf of the OIC secretariat, sent an invite to the ‘All Party Hurriyat Conference’ aware that none would attend, and India would object, as it has already done. Qureshi hoped it would add credence to Pakistan’s Kashmir stand.
Pakistan has been projecting Kashmir in every forum to no avail. Post the missile incident, Pak even approached the UN Secretary General. Qureshi knows that a mention of Kashmir in the joint statement could draw back on some criticism of failure of Pakistan’s Kashmir policy. The missile incident has provided Pakistan with a new subject, which means little to other members.
Maybe Qureshi has not read the agenda as declared by the OIC secretariat on its website or seeks to ignore it. The agenda given in the website is, ‘the issue of Palestine and Al-Quds Ash-Sharif and dangerous developments since the last CFM (Council of foreign ministers) in Niamey 2020. The Session will also discuss several political files, most notably developments in Afghanistan and its humanitarian consequences for the Afghan people. It will address several African issues, cooperation issues with international partners, the United Nations, the Russian Federation, and the European Union. Issues of international terrorism and conflict resolution will top the CFM’s agenda.’
Interestingly, international terrorism only emanates from OIC members. Ukraine will also be discussed. The OIC statement adds that Kashmir would be discussed only in a side line meeting of the contact group on Kashmir, though Pakistan would attempt to push it into the main agenda. For years Pakistan has attempted to call a special OIC session on Kashmir, mainly to woo its domestic audience, but failed. Frustration on this resulted in Pak-Saudi relations being soured when Qureshi threatened to bypass the House of Saud. It took two years for Pakistan to restore its ties with the Saudis.
Within the OIC, there are differences on multiple subjects, Syria and Libya being examples, where militias backed by different OIC members operate. There is also a tussle for control of the organization between Turkey and House of Saud. With the UAE and Saudis improving ties with Israel, its strong criticism is unlikely. All nations, part of the grouping, assess current scenarios from their own national interests.
Currently, Pakistan, UAE and Turkey are facing charges on supporting terrorist activities and are on the FATF Grey List, alongside other members of the group already there. Most OIC nations are also facing heat for human rights violations and ill-treatment of minorities, including Saudi Arabia and UAE. With no mention of Uighurs and China, where Muslims are being jailed in millions, the OIC has lost its voice, standing and relevance. It remains an organization with no voice, whose members meet and issue irrelevant statements only on subjects which do not involve OIC nations. Hence, Syria and Libya will never find a mention.
The OIC, as an organization, has done less for Afghanistan than even India. Not a single OIC nation has come forward to mediate to end the strife in Syria or Libya or compel the Taliban to adhere to global demands. Not a single OIC nation has accepted refugees from Muslim countries involved in internal strife including Syria, Libya or Afghanistan. They comment and subsequently sit back. For India, the OIC remains a pinprick on whose statement India issues a rejoinder. It is aware that the OIC has neither global standing, voice nor internal unity.
Most of the economically stronger nations within the group, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE have longstanding ties with India which they do not desire to jeopardize. The weaker nations, who form the majority, including Pakistan, are fighting their own battles for survival. With limited support Pakistan would push a one-line statement in the final resolution commenting on Kashmir. For local Pakistani’s this would indicate global support, without realizing that the OIC or its comments are valueless.
At the end of the day a standard drama will play out. The final statement would have a reference to Kashmir, over which Pakistan would gloat and claim victory. India would ignore these comments from an ‘has been and irrelevant organization.’ It will state that interference in India’s internal matters is unacceptable. The participants would return home. The story would end only to be repeated at the next summit.
Postscript. In Pakistan, immediately after the summit, there would be internal turmoil leading to the departure of Imran Khan. A new government would be installed. The summit and its statements would be history and dubbed another failed experiment. In summary it will be a summit with ‘much ado about nothing.’
The author is Major General(Retd)