OIC cold-shoulders Pakistan at big meet, Imran Khan govt puts up a brave face

Pakistan’s Imran Khan’s government on Saturday evening rushed to release a statement on references to Jammu and Kashmir in a resolution, which it said, had been passed by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation at the meeting of foreign ministers in Niger’s capital Niamey. Pakistan’s foreign office was the first to tweet, celebrating the customary references to Kashmir as a huge win.

Foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi who has had to face some embarrassing moments at home over OIC’s refusal to discuss Kashmir as a separate item followed up on Sunday morning.

There has been no communique from the OIC Secretariat on the resolution passed by the 57-member body yet.

Indian officials said New Delhi wouldn’t be surprised if the final OIC resolution does contain customary references to Kashmir claimed by Islamabad but underlined that it was significant that Jammu and Kashmir wasn’t discussed as a separate agenda item, something that the Imran Khan government had made a prestige issue for itself.

Pakistan has been demanding a special OIC meeting of foreign ministers on Kashmir ever since India abrogated Article 370 that extended special status to Jammu and Kashmir ut has been unsuccessful. It was in this desperation to get the OIC to hold the special meeting that prompted foreign minister Qureshi to cross the line in August this year when he threatened to hold a meeting of Muslim countries outside the OIC platform that had angered Saudi Arabia.

The Imran Khan government tried to persuade the OIC to let it hold a side event on Kashmir when preparations for the 27-28 November OIC foreign ministers were still underway. But Niger declined, insisting that they had taken a considered decision not to hold any side events. Niger hadn’t taken too well to Pakistan’s effort to use the OIC to settle its domestic agenda, people familiar with New Delhi’s diplomatic counter-offensive told Hindustan Times.

Saudi Arabia, however, miffed with Pakistan’s efforts to create a parallel forum was in no mood to relent. The Saudi leadership went a step further and advised Islamabad not to try to hijack the forum. Qureshi was told that Islamabad should not expect anything more than the customary references to Kashmir.

Terrorism was the overarching theme of the two-day conference; OIC secretary-general Dr Yousef Al-Othaimeen called terrorism the most serious threat to the region and the world.

Diplomats who were tracking the OIC conference said many OIC countries did indicate their displeasure at Pakistan’s refusal to curb terror and its encouragement to fundamentalists in the country, treatment of minorities and harsh blasphemy laws which the Arab nations have since relinquished. Pakistan did try to target India during the discussion on the fight against violence, extremism, terrorism and Islamophobia, but some countries did indirectly ask Islamabad to speak about allegations that it provided continuous support to the elements that designated as terrorists by the UN sanctions committee.

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