In a first, OIC extends invitation to India; Sushma is “guest of honour”

Based on inputs by Meeta Kapoor.

For the first time, India has been invited to the OIC. This invitation is of great importance and a diplomatic success because it comes at a time when tension between India and Pakistan ia at a high and India is trying to isolate Pakistam.

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj will address the inaugural session of the foreign ministers’ conclave of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on March 1. She has been invited by the United Arab Emirates as a ‘guest of honour’.

The foreign ministry said it was a “welcome recognition of the presence of 185 million Muslims in India, their contribution to its pluralistic ethos and of India’s contribution to the Islamic world”.

OIC had denied India a seat when the grouping started. The invitation by UAE foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan over a month ago is a sign of the deepening bilateral relationship as it would have needed diplomatic heavy lifting, particularly as the decision does not suit Pakistan that looks on OIC as a forum to rake up anti-India issues.

“We see this invitation as the desire of the enlightened leadership of the UAE to go beyond our rapidly growing close bilateral ties and forge a true multifaceted partnership at the multilateral and international level,” said MEA. In the last couple of years, India has improved ties with the Islamic world from Saudi Arabia to Indonesia, while building on good relations with countries like Qatar and Oman.

While it was Bangladesh that floated the idea of India becoming an observer at the OIC in 2018, the UAE invite offers India an opportunity to address the forum. India’s presence is an indication that OIC may be open to looking at India and Kashmir differently.

The OIC invitation is important for India, as Pakistan would like to use the OIC forum to lash out at India, and try to turn OIC against India.

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