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OIC can’t ignore India

OIC can’t ignore India
Highlights

Bangladesh has sounded the first official call to induct India as an observer to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) which has only Muslim majority countries as its members. The reason that Bangladesh cited is that 10.9 per cent of adherents of Islam of the world are the citizens of India.

Bangladesh has sounded the first official call to induct India as an observer to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) which has only Muslim majority countries as its members. The reason that Bangladesh cited is that 10.9 per cent of adherents of Islam of the world are the citizens of India. Though Pakistan is unlikely to welcome the proposal as it uses the forum to target India, the list of potential candidates also includes its all-weather friend China.

Bangladesh has underlined the need for bringing a major reform to the OIC for further strengthening the 57-country body and spread the benefits of the group to all Muslims across the world. The proposal was placed before the inaugural session of the two-day 45th Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) which began in Dhaka on May 5. Unless there is a religious bias, there is no need why India should not become at least an observer of the OIC as though Muslims are in minority, their number is quite large compared to Islamic countries. India's number of 183 million Muslims is next only to Pakistan's 195 million and Indonesia's 222 million.

World is changing in several ways and there is nothing wrong if the OIC opens itself up to the Muslims across the globe. India is handicapped in launching a more meaningful dialogue with the OIC in the absence of such a position. There is a skewed view as far as India is concerned in the OIC as many non-Muslim countries have become observers. Russia came on board as an observer in 2005 though it has less than 25 million Muslims.

Thailand which is a Buddhist country, received the same recognition in 1998. Most ironical part is that the Non-Aligned Movement of which India is one of the founding members and which has several non-Muslims countries, got an observer status in 1977. The OIC is the second largest inter-governmental group after the United Nations.

Yet another irony is that when the first Islamic Summit Conference was held in Rabat in September 1969 that gave birth to OIC, India was a part of it. King Faisal of Saudi Arabia was instrumental in extending invitation to India initially, but Yahya Khan of Pakistan moved fast in getting India forcibly excluded from the subsequent sessions of the organisation. Pakistan started using the OIC against India from 1990 onwards (as soon as insurgency sponsored by it in Kashmir began).

Of course, India has a way forward – incremental interaction and a quiet insistence on the restoration of the original membership would be a better alternative. This would make India an original invitee and the question of offering it an observer status does not even arise. The larger debate should also be about India being the second largest Muslim inhabited country, not a society focused on Muslim welfare only, but one in which Muslims, as an integral part of a larger whole, get the attention that every other section does. It is in the interest of OIC, more than any, that India is restored as an original invitee.

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