The 46th session of Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Conference held in Abu Dhabi recently was unique in many ways: it was held at a time when India and Pakistan were on the verge of war over Kashmir; Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, for the first time, was invited to address an OIC conference; Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi boycotted the conference protesting the invitation; and above all the adoption of a strongly-worded resolution on Indian Occupied Kashmir. The festive mood in Delhi over Sawraj’s maiden speech at the conference which many Indian policymakers branded as their successful strategy of isolating Pakistan, did not last long. Shock and rage were the hallmarks of Indian reaction, because it was not just an embarrassing rebuke from the Muslim world’s largest body but also it busted the Indian myth of isolating Pakistan.
The OIC’s Kashmir resolution was widely reported but little detail was published as to its language. Before commenting on it, let’s look at some of its most important language:
“Reaffirming the principles and objectives of the Charter of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the UN Charter regarding the sanctity of the universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination and recalling the numerous unimplemented UN Security Council resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir dispute which declare that the final disposition of the state of Jammu and Kashmir will be made in accordance with the will of the people to join India or Pakistan expressed through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite conducted under the auspices of the United Nations;
“Stressing that Jammu and Kashmir is the core dispute between Pakistan and India and its resolution is indispensable for realization of the dream for peace in South Asia;
“Expressing deep concern at atrocious and human rights violations being committed by the Indian occupation forces in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IoK) since 1947 that have resulted in the martyrdom of more than 100,000 innocent Kashmiris;
“Strongly condemning the intensified Indian barbarities since July 2016, after the extra judicial killing of Burhan Wani, against unarmed and innocent civilians in IoK in which more than 755 people have died, and around 25,265 sustained injuries,
“Condemns in the strongest possible terms recent wave of Indian terrorism in occupied Jammu & Kashmir that have resulted in the deaths of 48 people in the month of November alone making 2018 one of the deadliest years in the history of occupied Jammu & Kashmir in more than a decade with over 450 casualties;
“Unequivocally condemn the mass blinding of Kashmiri youth, including many women and children, by the pellet gun shots deliberately aimed at eyes; …
“Noting the widespread uprising by the people of Indian occupied Jammu & Kashmir as a referendum against Indian occupation; …
“Expressing serious concern at the unprecedented level of illegal detentions and disappearances; Strongly condemning the continued detentions and house arrests of senior Hurriyat leaders which not only denies them their fundamental freedoms of movement, political activity and speech, but also having a heavy toll on their health; Expressing deep shock at the discovery of more than 6000 unmarked mass graves in IoK with thousands of victims of fake encounters; Condemning the wide-spread practice of harassment of Kashmiri students in Indian institutions for showing support to Pakistan; …
“Rejecting the Indian attempts to malign the legitimate Kashmiri freedom struggle by denigrating it as terrorism and expressing support to the wide-spread indigenous movement in IoK for realization of their right to self-determination; …
“Appeals to the Member States, OIC and other Islamic Institutions, such as the Islamic Solidarity Fund, and philanthropists to mobilize funds and contribute generously toward providing humanitarian assistance to the Kashmiri people.
“Requested the Islamic Development Bank and the Islamic Solidarity fund to provide the necessary financial resources to provide vocational training and higher education to Kashmiri refugees and entrusts the General Secretariat to submit appropriate proposals.”
The comprehensive resolution plainly rejected the Indian narrative on Kashmir, upsetting not just the Modi government but also the opposition parties. Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said the government’s claims that the OIC inviting India to attend the meeting was a diplomatic success had fallen flat with the 56-member grouping adopting a resolution that “supported” Pakistan on Kashmir issue and condemned alleged “Indian barbarities”.
India has been lobbying to be part of the OIC for a long time, insisting that while it is a Hindu-majority country, its almost 200 million Muslim population qualifies it to its membership. And it has strong supporters within the OIC as well. United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah said the group had sent a “very clear and positive” message to India. “I think the OIC has sent a very clear and positive sign to India and looks forward to strengthening such a relationship to a point where we can embrace India one day at the OIC,” he said.
Sheikh Abdullah’s optimism speaks of the dilemma OIC faces in dealing with India. It has been passing resolutions on Kashmir and other festering issues at its conferences over the years. But all these have remained toothless because, like the UAE, none of the OIC member countries are willing to follow up on what they preach or want the world to believe. Non-implementation of these resolutions simply emboldens occupiers like India and proves the OIC to be a paper-tiger. OIC should either demonstrate it ability to implement its resolutions or or stop adopting them with fanfare.
It is not difficult for OIC, especially the oil rich countries, to press India, whose economy heavily depends on oil rich Muslim countries. According to a report by IndiaSpend, more than 7 million Indians are currently living in six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations – Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain – and other West Asian countries, who are more than 60% of all global non-resident Indians. (This figure excluded the illegal Indians in the Arab countries). In 2016, Middle Eastern countries shared 55.7% ($35 billion) of India’s total remittances (It does not include the money illegally transferred to India). Even poor and tiny Bangladesh is the fifth largest remittance supplier of India.
While an average salary in India is $2,860 a year, in Qatar, Indian migrants earn $6,916 a year on average, followed by $5,713 in Kuwait, $5,544 in the United Arab Emirates and $5,112 in Saudi Arabia.
Why Remittances from the Middle East Matter to India
According to The Times of India Bangladesh is the fifth largest remittance source for India that bagged over $4 billion in 2017. The OIC has at least two instruments that it can use to convince India to find a peaceful solution to the Kashmir crisis.
Firstly, it can ask the Muslim countries to expel Indian workers or restrict or ban the import of labor from India. The prospects of millions of Indians facing the prospects of losing lucrative jobs and contracts in the Middle East will build economic pressure on India, giving a wake up call to the hawks in New Delhi to change their repressive policies on Kashmir.
Secondly, India is entirely dependent on the Muslims countries for oil supply. It is the third largest oil importer. Some restrictions on oil supplies can also bring the necessary squeeze on the Modi government to pay heed to calls for change in its militarist direction on Kashmir.
And lastly, OIC can ask its member countries to stop importing Indian goods, which will add to the economic pressure on it.
To prove OIC as being an effective organization, it has to go beyond just passing resolutions which will remain toothless if not followed up by policy actions. If it continues to fail to follow up its call with politico-economic actions, OIC stands to lose its credibility and influence, which it already has, to a large extent.
Mohammad Zainal Abedin is a Bangladesh-origin American journalist who edits Weekly Runner News of NY