NEW DELHI: Foreign ministers of India and Pakistan could come face to face in Abu Dhabi on March 1 where Delhi has been invited in a rare move to address the plenary meeting of OIC foreign ministers.
India’s Ministry of External Affairs has said that the invitation to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to address the Inaugural Plenary of the 46th Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is 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”.
The meeting will be held in Abu Dhabi on March 1 and 2, for which Ms Swaraj has been invited by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as the ‘Guest of Honour’. The Indian ministry did not mention any possibility of a meeting between Indian and Pakistan foreign ministers.
The OIC describes itself as “the collective voice of the Muslim world”, and its stated objective is “to safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony among various people of the world”.
In the past the group has criticised India’s human rights abuse in occupied Kashmir.
The invitation to India to the OIC meeting coincides with the recent visit to Pakistan and India by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who has advocated a peaceful resolution to the differences between the two countries, including their current standoff following the Pulwama attack.
The Indian Express said the OIC has reserved its membership for Muslim-majority countries. Russia, Thailand, and couple of other small countries have observer status. At the 45th session of the Foreign Ministers’ Summit in May 2018, Bangladesh, the host country, had suggested that India, where more than 10 per cent of the world’s Muslims live, should be given observer status, but Pakistan had opposed the proposal.
The first-time invitation to India to be a ‘Guest of Honour’ at the plenary, especially at a time of heightened tensions with Pakistan following the Pulwama terrorist attack, is a significant diplomatic victory for New Delhi, the Express said.
Published in Dawn, February 24th, 2019