The United Arab Emirates (UAE) strongly defended the decision to invite India as a guest of honour to the meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) foreign ministers which it is hosting on March 1-2, Pakistan’s strong objection and threat to boycott the event notwithstanding.
Its top leadership conveyed to the Indian government that the UAE was looking forward to external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj’s visit for the OIC meet, brushing aside Pakistan’s objections, people aware of the matter told ET.
In Abu Dhabi, besides delivering a lecture at the OIC plenary, Swaraj will hold bilateral meetings with some of her counterparts from the members of the grouping.
Pakistan had threatened to boycott the meeting if the invitation to India was not withdrawn. It claimed that Turkey was also opposed to Swaraj’s speech at the plenary. However, Turkey has backed Bangladesh in demanding OIC reforms to seek India’s participation.
“The invite to India on the occasion of 50th anniversary of OIC is all the more significant,” said one person.
“Fifty years ago, Pakistan forced India’s withdrawal from the OIC meet. However, today most OIC member states seek engagement with India given its pluralist track record, economic potential and global stature. It is only befitting that India has been invited as a guest of honour while Russia and Thailand are observers to OIC.”
Experts said voice of moderation was gaining strength among OIC member states, with the UAE leading from the front, and that engagement with India would play an important role in that process.
The visit of the Pope to the UAE was a landmark event, as was the visit of a UAE minister to the Vatican, they said. Other key OIC member states including Saudi Arabia, North African states and Southeast Asian countries are also in favour of moderation, they said.
India’s trade with the 57-member grouping stands at $230 billion and 12 million Indians reside in these countries.