The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which last year drew harsh criticism from non-OIC country India for adopting a resolution on Kashmir, avoided taking any significant stance at all this year in its Dhaka Declaration.
Among the 39 resolutions adopted at the recently finished OIC Council of Foreign Ministers (OIC-CFM) meeting at Dhaka, just one mentioned “Jammu and Kashmir,” and then only along with 12 other Muslim-majority states or regions in conflicts across the world.
The Declaration said that the OIC ministers “reaffirm our firm solidarity” with those 13 areas of conflict “as well as Muslim Communities and Minorities in non-OIC Member States within the established principle of the respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the States in which they belong consistent with international law and agreements.”
India’s arch-rival Pakistan — a member state of the OIC — criticized the Dhaka Declaration, saying host country Bangladesh “circulated the text of the declaration just before the conclusion of the conference,” UNB reported.
UNB cited a press release issued by the Pakistan High Commission in Dhaka on Monday that claimed the Dhaka Declaration “only reflected the views of the host country, and therefore, issued under its own responsibility, signifying that the text was neither discussed nor negotiated by the participating states.”
Bangladesh, however, said it had acted based on consultation with the OIC secretariat.
“Everything was done following directives and suggestions from the OIC Secretariat,” State Minister for Foreign Affairs M. Shahriar Alam told UNB on Monday, “Still, if anyone has any grievances, they should inform the OIC Secretariat first.”
The Kashmir Problem
The Himalayan region of Kashmir has long been at the center of the infamous rivalry between the two nuclear-armed foes, with both India and Pakistan laying claim to the conflict-riven, Muslim-majority territory.
The plight of Muslims in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir came into the spotlight again last month after the rape and brutal murder of an eight-year-old girl — a Muslim from a nomadic tribe.
The identity of the accused — a group of Hindus, including police officers and a retired government official — and the heinous nature of the crime reignited the possibility of an age-old problem in this troubled part of subcontinent: Hindu-Muslim conflict.
Notably, in last year’s OIC-CFM meeting at Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, the 56-member council passed a unanimous resolution endorsing the OIC’s Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) report over the “gross human rights violation of India Occupied Kashmir (IOK).”
The Abidjan Declaration urged India “to stop forthwith its brutalities and crimes against humanity in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and allow international human rights groups’ access to IOK for conducting free and impartial inquiry into the horrendous human rights abuses.”
Condemning and rejecting the OIC’s claims of “gross human rights violations in Kashmir” and “the continued terrorism by India in the valley,” the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) issued a statement in which it asked the organization “to refrain from making such inaccurate statements in the future,” according to Times of India.
“India out rightly rejects all such references. The OIC has no locus standi on India’s internal affairs. We strongly advise the OIC to refrain from making such references in future,” the MEA said.
Bangladesh’s Proposal for India
Meanwhile, Times of India reported that during the Dhaka OIC meeting, Bangladesh made the first official call to induct countries with large Muslim populations, like India, as observers to the OIC.
“There is a need to build bridges with those non-OIC countries so that a large number of Muslim populations do not remain untouched by the good work of OIC. That is why reforms and restructuring is critical for OIC,” Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali, Bangladesh’s foreign minister and the current chair of the OIC-CFM, said.
With 180 million Muslims, India has the third-largest Muslim population in the world after Indonesia and Pakistan. It has long been a contender for becoming an observer state of the OIC.
Article 3(e) of the Conditions for Accession to Observer Status at OIC, however, states that to apply for observer status, a country should not be in conflict with any of the member states. Pakistan is assumed to have been using that article to keep India out of the OIC.
Munshi Fayez Ahmed, chairman of the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS), said that India has “one of the largest Muslim population[s] in the world” and hence it is “of course a strong contender for being an observer of OIC.”
“The current Secretary General too seems to agree on including non-OIC countries with large Muslim population as observer,” said Ahmed, a former Bangladeshi diplomat.
When asked about any connection between the absence of a strong resolution on Kashmir issue and Bangladesh’s call for India’s inclusion, Ahmed said, “I can’t connect the dots.”
“The Dhaka Declaration was made at the end of the two day meeting and it accommodated what the dignitaries have deemed important enough to accommodate under consensus,” he said.
However, Dr. Azeem Ibrahim, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Policy in Washington criticized the “Dhaka Declaration’s apparent avoidance” of the Kashmir issue. Ibrahim argued that the OIC should condemn the violence and oppression Muslims are experiencing worldwide, irrespective of who the perpetrators of the violence are.
“If the OIC claims to represent the Muslim world in its entirety, it must speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,” he said.
Faisal Mahmud is a Dhaka based journalist.