It was a diplomatic victory for Pakistan when OIC agreed to hold a special meeting on the Kashmir issue. Now reports have emerged that Saudi Arabia along with other Gulf countries is showing reluctance to hold the meeting and slowly back off from their commitments.
Senior officials of OIC member states are meeting in Jeddah to make preparations for the Council of Foreign Ministers’ conference in April where the Kashmir issue was supposed to be taken up. Pakistan is displeased that Kashmir is unlikely to be on the agenda.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has voiced his frustration over the OIC’s silence on the Kashmir issue. He recently stated that there is no unity among the Muslim world as they cannot even come together to address the Kashmir issue. The prime minister stands correct as bilateral relations are not made based on culture or religion but rather vested interests.
The prime minister has returned from a visit to Malaysia aimed at maintaining cordial relations. Pakistan was compelled to stay away from the KL Summit last November after pressure from the Saudis and UAE who considered it as an alternative to the OIC. Their concerns could not be allayed and Pakistan did not attend.
Pakistan has been pushing to hold an OIC meeting on Kashmir ever since India annexed the restive region and imposed a communication blockade. The meeting is necessary to send a clear message to the Muslim world on the Kashmir issue, but this requires support from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries who dominated the regional bloc.
Saudi Arabia has sent its foreign minister to placate Pakistan after the KL Summit where it was agreed that a meeting will be held on Kashmir. This was followed by a visit from Abu Dhabi Crown Prince who is an influential figure. The Saudis are hesitating to hold an immediate meeting of foreign ministers on the issue, and have instead offered Pakistan to hold a parliamentary forum or speakers’ conference.
The Kashmir issue is being linked with the Palestine dispute as many Arab countries have rejected Donald Trump’s peace plan dubbed as the ‘Deal of the Century’. Pakistan has resisted these proposals saying that the seriousness of the Kashmir issue and human rights violations warrant a separate meeting. There are concerns that clubbing the Kashmir issue with Palestine would place it on the back-burner and suppress the issue instead.
The Saudi’s had shown flexibility but now appear to be backing off from the meeting. If the OIC cannot even agree on the agenda of the meeting, it is unlikely to resolve the complex Kashmir issue faced by the Muslim world. The OIC remains divided as ever and thus an ineffective forum to tackle the most pressing issues.