Muslim couple in Mumbai, India
By R M Panda
India has the second largest population of Muslims and yet it has been denied its rightful place in the OIC meetings so far. It was therefore a big diplomatic triumph for India when it was a invited to the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) meeting this year for the first time since its formation.
India’s External affairs minister Ms Sushma Swaraj addressed the inaugural session of the OIC’s 46th session of council of Foreign Ministers as a Guest of honour. India’s presence in the OIC meeting in Abu Dhabi was a major setback to Pakistan as it had been consistently opposing Indian presence in any form in the OIC.
Sushma Swaraj made a very powerful speech emphasizing on peace, quoting from “Holy Quran”, “Guru Nanak dev” and the “Rig Veda”. She said every religion in the world stands for peace, compassion and brotherhood. India’s fight against terrorism must not be seen as a confrontation against any religion.
Almost after five decades, India’s entry in to OIC became possible only because of its continuous effort to develop bilateral and multilateral relations with Islamic countries. India has been expanding its defence and security cooperation too. India’s economic engagement, digital partnership and its human and cultural links have turned Islamic countries more friendly than ever before..
Relations with India’s neighbouring countries Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Maldives have improved in a big way in the last few years. India’s unwavering commitment to the security and prosperity of the people in these countries has been understood and recognised.
With Iran India not only shares civilisational and cultural links but also has a vital partnership in economic development and energy co-operation. As Pakistan blocks its land route to India to connect with Central Asia, Iran plays a vital role in linking India and Central Asian countries with the development of Chahbar port.
In West Asia India has very good ties with Egypt, Palestine and has great admiration for Jordan’s efforts in strengthening the voices of moderation and faith. Iraq and India have stood together in triumphs and trials.
With African nations India shares a deep emotional bond that comes from the struggle for freedom. Today India and Africa have launched a new partnership of prosperity.
Presently Gulf countries are India’s largest markets for supply of energy. The remittances from Gulf Countries that run into billions have helped India to have a healthy balance on foreign exchange. More than 8 million Indians are living in this region and are contributing to its growth. It is an indispensable strategic, security and economic partnership of India with this region.
Recently Abu Dhabi also helped India in its agenda of fight against corruption by deporting an economic offender to India on New Delhi’s request. Crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman in his recent successful trip to India announced investments in areas of energy, refining, petrochemicals, infrastructure, agriculture, minerals and mining, manufacturing, education and health potentially worth in excess of $100 billion.
Indian troops have served as UN Peace Keepers in troubled Muslim countries.
Students from all the 56 Muslim countries come to India for their higher education. They all carry the message with them of India’s secularism, democratic society and its constitution that gives equal rights to all its citizens irrespective of their religion. As Mrs Sushma Swaraj said in her speech that it is this appreciation of diversity and co-existence, that has ensured that very few Muslims in India have fallen prey to the poisonous propaganda of radical and extremist ideologies.
Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmod Qureshi chose to protest India’s inclusion to OIC in Pakistani Parliament. As a member of the OIC Pakistan did try to disinvite India to the meeting in Abu Dhabi but failed as UAE did not change its stand. This is a huge setback for Pakistan as it was successfully restricting India’s presence in OIC for last five decades and was consistently using this forum to push their anti-India agenda on Kashmir.
In 2018 Bangladesh made a suggestion in OIC to give an ‘observer status’ to India but it was opposed by Pakistan.
The recognition given to India now with its second most Muslim population should help India in expanding its relations with the Muslim countries and also help in increasing cultural exchanges and bilateral trade. Where possible strategic and security relations could also be improved. This window of opportunity now given by the OIC should be utilised for the mutual benefit of all the countries involved.
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