OIC Session: Opportunity for Pakistan to Foster its Regional Interests

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The 48th Session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers is going to be held in Islamabad on 22nd-23rd of March 2022 which will coincide with the celebrations of the Pakistan Resolution, adopted in Lahore on 23rd March 1940. The timing of this event is crucial for a number of reasons i.e. Islamophobia, Indian oppression of Kashmiri Muslims, and the developing situation of Afghanistan. It would be the second event of OIC hosted by Pakistan in 3 months that is reflective of Pakistan’s active and leading role within the Muslim World.

The proposed theme, “Partnering for Unity, Justice, and Development”, signifies the dire need for collaboration, institutional framework, and proposed solutions for the pertinent issues faced by the Muslim World. The foremost is the rising threat of Islamophobia which has not only engulfed the entire West but related incidents have been occurring in Asia as well. The Hijab row in India is the manifestation of anti-Muslim policy in the so-called largest democracy. Similarly, the treatment of Kashmiri Muslims is yet another testimony of how the Hindutva-inspired ideology has been squeezing the space for freedom of expression and faith.

The landmark resolution proposed by Pakistan and passed by the UN to declare March 15th as the annual day of combating and raising awareness on Islamophobia is the preliminary initiative to institutionalize the concerns of the Muslim World. However, it must be enforced and pursued after through the platform of OIC so to voice the joint grievances. Furthermore, any identification of gross human rights violations in Kashmir and India must, therefore, be conveyed using this UN resolution on Islamophobia. The aspect of “justice” in the proposed theme of the upcoming OIC should be analyzed in this context.

The inclusion of “development” is also vital signaling across the globe with specific regards to the volatile situation of Afghanistan. It is in line with the agenda of an extraordinary session of OIC that was held in December last year in which the resumption of humanitarian aid to war-torn Afghanistan was unanimously agreed upon. Although the term “development” covers broader aspects like issues of poverty, unemployment, and economic undergrowth in Muslim countries, especially in the post-Covid era yet its relevance to Afghanistan is inevitable. By advocating this, stabilization could be better achieved which would evidently broaden the scope of regional cooperation.

However, the most crucial feature is the challenging task of ensuring unity within the Muslim World. One factor of OIC being less efficient than its true potential is the disharmony within the Muslim states. To further the agenda of justice and development, it is first imperative to manage the internal rift. Therefore, the inclusion of “unity” in the theme is significant and Pakistan’s role in it is decisive. Pakistan’s advocacy of peaceful resolution of conflicts engulfing the Muslim World and its proposal of mediating specifically in the Saudi-Iran dispute synchronize with the OIC session.

In alignment with the aforementioned arguments, Pakistan’s initiative of this multilateral framework is expected to yield two benefits. First, through spearheading the session of the world’s 2nd largest organization, the concerns of the broader Muslim World will project the specific global outlook of Pakistan in a more substantial manner. This would also be helpful in consolidating Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir and India’s suppressive policy towards Muslims. Second, by inviting the Chinese foreign minister as chief guest, the presentation and recommendations of this OIC session can be replicated in a Chinese-led organization i.e. Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). This is to say that situation in Afghanistan, economic development in the region, and India’s destabilizing attempts are a source of concern for China as well. In fact, conflict resolution amongst the Muslim nations with the specific context of the Middle East favors China’s foreign and economic policies as well since China’s Belt and Road Initiative has huge stakes in that region.

Conclusively, one needs to be mindful that despite being the major multilateral platform, OIC performance has always remained questionable. This is because despite falling into the concept of “Muslim Ummah”, OIC member states have diverse interests and policy objectives. This session, nevertheless, sparks the debate on issues that nearly every Muslim country has been facing. Hence, optimum utilization of this session must be envisaged as it would simultaneously advocate Pakistan’s own concerns for the region.

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