New Delhi: A day after Indian external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj addressed the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) as ‘guest of honour’, India gave a relatively muted criticism of resolutions on Kashmir and the peace process by the Islamic bloc.
For the first time in 50 years, Swaraj addressed the inaugural plenary of the annual meeting of the Council of foreign ministers on March 1, on invitation of the host – United Arab Emirates. Pakistan boycotted the 46th ministerial meeting claiming that India had “no legal or moral grounds to be present at the meeting”.
The Abu dhabi declaration, released at the end of the conference, welcomed the “positive initiative undertaken by the Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan to hand over the Indian pilot as a gesture of goodwill to de-escalate tensions in the region”. There was, however, no mention of Kashmir in the main declaration compared to last year’s in Dhaka, since the entire paragraph which expressed solidarity with Muslim communities in the conflict zone was missing in 2019.
However, just like in 2018 and previous years, there were two separate political resolutions on “The Peace Process between India and Pakistan” and “The Jammu and Kashmir Dispute”.
The resolution on the India-Pakistan peace process was identical in language to the one issued last year.
However, the Kashmir resolution was slightly modified to reflect events from 2018. For example, the 2019 resolution welcomed the UN Human Rights Commissioner’s report on Kashmir and called for its implementation with the setting up of a Commission of Inquiry. It also sought to end the hundreds of arrests and “disappearances” in Kashmir. The recommendation to member states were picked up from previous resolutions.
In his official response to the OIC resolution, the external affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar first stated that India “deeply appreciates the historic gesture” of inviting the Indian foreign minister to the ministerial summit.
He then went on to mention the OIC political resolutions.
“As regards the resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir, our stand is consistent and well known. We reaffirm that Jammu & Kashmir is an integral part of India and is a matter strictly internal to India.”
The language was a much more polite one than India’s response to similar resolutions in previous years, when India had said that OIC had “no locus standi” and advised it to “refrain from such references.” Indian response had followed a similar template whether in 2018, 2017, 2016 or 2015.
“We observe with utmost regret as well as categorically reject the resolutions adopted by Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) on Jammu and Kashmir at the 45th CFM session of OIC in Dhaka, Bangladesh held on 5-6 May 2018. We affirm once again that Jammu & Kashmir is an integral part of India and the OIC has no locus standi in matters strictly internal to India. We advise OIC to refrain from such references.”
At a press conference at the end of the OIC meeting, the UAE crown prince was asked a question on including the Kashmir resolutions in the bundle of documents.
“Let’s look at it from the positive angle. I think the OIC has sent a very clear and positive sign to India, to the people of India that the OIC appreciates the relationship with India and looks forward to strengthening such a relationship to a point where we can embrace India one day in the OIC,” said the crown prince Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
He added that it was a “historic moment” both for India and OIC to have Swaraj as a guest of honour.
“It was a historic moment for India definitely, and the language that you are referring to has been in our previous statements. The most important change in the OIC today is having India as a guest of honour and having such a positive, strong, dedicated speech that we heard yesterday from India,” he stated.
The Indian ambassador to UAE, Navdeep Suri claimed that the comments by the crown prince “really capture the spirit of UAE’s invitation to India to participate in OIC foreign ministers meeting as Guest of Honour”.
Official sources added that the political resolutions, like the ones on Kashmir, are based on country proposals and are not negotiated documents. These resolutions were added during the meeting of the OIC senior officials, where Pakistan did participate.
They pointed out that the main negotiated document was the Abu Dhabi declaration.
Meanwhile, Pakistan foreign office issued a statement which noted that OIC “reaffirms unwavering support for the Kashmiri people”.