Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)

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    Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)

    Syllabus: GS2/ India & Foreign Relations, International Organisations & Groupings

    In Context

    • Recently, India’s foreign ministry spokesperson sharply criticised the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

    India & OIC

    • Beginning: As a country with the world’s second largest Muslim community, India had been invited to the founding conference at Rabat in 1969, but was humiliatingly rejected at Pakistan’s behest. 
      • Then Agriculture Minister Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed was dis-invited upon arrival in Morocco. 
    • Invite as an observer: In 2006, as India turned the economic corner and improved ties with the US, Saudi Arabia invited Delhi to join as an observer.
    • India’s reason for not being a part of OIC: But India stayed away because of a multiplicity of reasons, not least of which was that as a secular country, it did not want to join an organisation founded on religion. 
      • There was the risk that improving bilateral relations with individual member states would come under pressure in a grouping, especially on issues such as Kashmir.
    • Guest of honour: At the 45th session of the Foreign Ministers’ Summit in 2018, when Bangladesh, the host, suggested that India, where more than 10 percent of the world’s Muslims live, should be given observer status but Pakistan opposed the proposal.
      • In 2019, India made its maiden appearance at the OIC Foreign Ministers’ meeting, as a “guest of honour”.
    • OIC’s significance for India: OIC’s growing economic and energy interdependence with India has become important in recent times.
      • Individually, India has good relations with almost all member nations.

    Issues & challenges

    • Shadowed by Pakistan – Kashmir Issue: The OIC is mainly controlled by Saudi Arabia, but Pakistan, as the only Islamic country with nuclear weapons, has had a large say since its inception. 
      • As a result, over the years, the organisation has issued several statements on Kashmir that have been supportive of Pakistan and critical of Indian “atrocities”.
      • In 2019, Pakistan pushed the organisation to decry the Indian government’s decision to abrogate Article 370 of the Constitution, which provided special status to Jammu and Kashmir. 
    • India’s recent criticism: OIC’s secretary general, Hissein Brahim Taha recently visited Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and was briefed by the country’s military.
      • Considering this event, India’s foreign ministry spokesperson argued that OIC had “no locus standi in matters related to Jammu and Kashmir” and that its secretary general, Hissein Brahim Taha, has become Pakistan’s mouth-piece.
    • Meddling in India’s internal affairs: India has for decades criticised the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation for meddling in the country’s internal affairs, (like the hijab row of Karnataka) particularly on the matter of Kashmir. 
      • Often prodded by Pakistan, the intergovernmental organisation comprising mostly Muslim-majority nations has also sought to condemn the Indian government on a host of issues.

    Way ahead

    • India’s deepening bilateral ties: The invitation to India for the 2019 foreign minister’s meeting despite flaring tensions with Pakistan was the result of Delhi’s strengthening cooperation with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – two of the most important members of the organisation. 
      • The deepening of India’s bilateral ties with them, among other oil-rich West Asian nations, has been on the back of mutual interests and need for economic cooperation.
      • Delhi’s defence cooperation with Riyadh and Abu Dhabi has also deepened substantially.
    • India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy: Two other members – Bangladesh and Maldives – retaining importance in India’s “Neighbourhood First” foreign policy has also helped improve the organisation’s ties with India.
    • India & Gulf Cooperation Council: Between the financial year 2020-’21 and 2021-’22 alone, India’s bilateral trade with the Gulf Cooperation Council countries jumped from $87.4 billion to $154.7 billion. 
      • The Council includes Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman – all of whom are members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. 
    • India & ASEAN: Annual two-way trade with the Association of South East Asian Nations – which includes Organisation of Islamic Cooperation members Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei – also crossed the $100 billion-mark for the first time in the financial year 2021-’22.
    • India’s sand on Kashmir: India has consistently underlined that J&K is an “integral part of India and is a matter strictly internal to India”, and that the OIC has no locus standi on the issue.

    Daily Mains Question

    [Q] Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) growing economic and energy interdependence with India has become important in recent times. Analyse in context of India’s bilateral relations with OIC members.