On the diplomatic front by Dr. Ramesh Kumar Vankwani

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An important meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, representing 57 Muslim countries, was held at a time when two nuclear powers, Pakistan and India, were confronting with each other.

Inviting Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj to address the inaugural session as guest of honour and, in response, the boycott by the Pakistani foreign minister were considered extraordinary moves on the diplomatic front.

Due to Pakistan’s pivotal role to strengthen the OIC since day one, there were two opinions regarding this year’s participation in the presence of India. Some were of the view that Pakistan is the founding member of OIC and so the Pakistani government must record a protest for inviting the Indian delegate without taking Pakistan in confidence.

However, there were also a good number of intellectuals and parliamentarians, including myself, who believed that Pakistan must attend the OIC meeting at any cost to present its point of view more effectively in the presence of the Indian delegate, and seek peaceful solutions to long-standing disputes with India.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi announced during the joint session of parliament that Pakistan would not attend the 46th session of the OIC’s Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM), hosted by the UAE. Earlier, there were media reports that Pakistan had also written a letter to the host country that the invitation to India “was extended without consultation with member states and contrary to the rules of the OIC”.

India’s attempt to join the OIC is as old as the OIC itself. In August 1969, two dozen Muslim countries gathered in Rabat, Morocco to discuss the unfortunate attack attempt on the holy Masjid Aqsa in the occupied Palestinian territory. Keeping its large Muslim population and rich Islamic heritage in view, India was also invited that time to attend the first meeting. A high-level Indian delegation even reached the Conference Hall but due to strong protest by the then Pakistani president Yahya Khan, the delegation was sent back.

The second meeting of the OIC was hosted by Pakistan in 1974. Also known as the Second Islamic Summit Conference or the Lahore Summit, it was attended by many Muslim countries. The sincere contributions of the then Pakistani prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to make the historic meeting successful was appreciated by all participating Muslim countries. The OIC had made clear to India that even after the separation of its eastern part, Pakistan still had the strong support of a large number of friends, including some of the world’s wealthiest countries.

The OIC is always supportive of Pakistan, and has passed a number of resolutions to condemn the violation of human rights in Indian-occupied Kashmir. Even this time, the OIC reportedly concluded with a statement to endorse Pakistan’s stance. According to media reports, the statement also reminds the international community of its obligation to ensure the implementation of the UN Security Council’s resolutions. The OIC , while urging the need to resolve outstanding issues through peaceful means, also appreciated the goodwill gesture of peace shown by Prime Minister Imran Khan by freeing Indian fighter pilot.

One must agree that presenting a country’s stance to the international community through diplomatic ways is a very complex procedure and needs sensible decisions. When I was listening to the speech of Sushma Swaraj, it was very strange for me that nobody from Pakistan was present to counter her claims. During my meeting with her in New Delhi, I categorically said that Pakistan was not involved in the Pulwama attack. In fact, Pakistan is a victim of global terrorism, and a frontline state in the war on terror.

Pakistan enjoys cordial relations with Saudi Arabia and the UAE. In the context of the recent visits of Saudi and UAE leaderships to Pakistan, both countries were in a good position to arrange a meeting of the Pakistani foreign minister with his Indian counterpart. If that happened, it would have a long-lasting impact on regional peace and bilateral relations between Pakistan and India.

Therefore, I personally believe that leaving the diplomatic front open for India is not a wise decision. In the past, Pakistan has suffered a lot due to such an attitude. It is time to review our foreign policy in the best interests of our people. For this purpose, we must keep emotions aside and define a concrete policy to join each and every diplomatic forum available for defending our beloved motherland. There is also a need to take bold and blunt decisions to resolve regional disputes in a peaceful manner.

The writer is a member of the National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.

Twitter: @RVankwani

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