The Muslim world appears to have formally acknowledged that Kashmir is an integral part of India. According to the prominent Dawn daily newspaper in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia declined Pakistan’s request for an emergency meeting of the council of Foreign Ministers on February 9 at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) conference. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has been on a globetrotting mission seeking support ever since the Narendra Modi-led government abrogated the special status of Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019.
The Fight Over Kashmir
The Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan has captured the attention of Muslim leaders globally. It has become an integral part of Pakistan’s diplomacy to muster support against India in the Islamic world. Islamabad has striven to evolve a consensus among OIC member states in condemning New Delhi’s Kashmir policy, which it argues violates the rights of the Muslim population in the state. In spite of Pakistan’s efforts, however, the Gulf Cooperation Council Summit in Riyadh overlooked the Kashmir issue.
“We can’t even come together as a whole on the OIC meeting on Kashmir,” Dawn quoted Pakistan’s Khan as saying. It may be recalled that Khan was also compelled by Saudi Crown Prince Mohamad Bin Salman to cancel his trip to Malaysia 2019 to attend the Islamic Summit hosted by the Mahathir Mohamad government. Khan had intended to condemn India over Kashmir at the Summit, but stated in December that he had persuaded Saudi Arabia to hold a special session on Kashmir at the OIC in lieu of his Malaysia trip.
Why Are Islamic Countries Not Supporting Pakistan’s Kashmir Claim?
According to political observers, the trend of ignoring the Kashmir issue started a few years ago because many Muslim nations were strengthening ties with India. India’s comprehensive engagements with the UAE and Saudi Arab in recent years also helped it to undermine Pakistan’s influence in the OIC. India has developed a good business relationship with the UAE and Saudi Arabia in particular. The UAE and Saudi Arabia are also jointly building a mammoth refinery in India with an investment of $60 billion. With $100 billion in annual trade, India has become a vital trade partner to the Gulf countries. Moreover, millions of Indian workers are contributing to the region’s economy.
The UAE conferred the country’s highest civilian award—the Order of Zayed—on Modi for boosting bilateral ties between the two nations and Modi was also honored with Saudi Arabia’s highest civilian award in 2016. In addition, the UAE supported India’s decision to revoke Article 370 in Kashmir on the ground that the legislative move could improve the prevailing social and security situation in J&K. Both these countries are looking beyond oil, and they regard India as a potential country with a huge market where they can invest.
India’s Bonhomie With Middle-Eastern Countries Turns The Tide Against Pakistan
India’s former external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj earned the distinction of being the guest of honor for the 46th Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers (ICFM) meeting in Abu Dhabi in spite of Pakistan’s threat to boycott the meeting.
In the Arab world, Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and Saddam Hussein of Iraq also both backed India’s position on Kashmir, as India’s “internal matter.” Damascus has also recognized India’s position on the Kashmir issue. Other important Arab member states, such as Egypt, have held a neutral stance while commenting on the Kashmir dispute. Above all, Bangladesh proposed reform of OIC in 2018 to facilitate India with its significant Muslim population in becoming a member of the organization.
According to political analysts, “India has a deep, long-standing, and versatile relationship with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. New Delhi has positioned itself as a strategic business partner in the Middle East. India imports 80 percent of its petroleum products from the region. The Middle Eastern countries hold India vital for their national interest. Support from Saudi Arabia is deemed a necessity for any move at the OIC. Saudi Arabia’s, the leader of Muslim world’s rejection is almost a ratification of India’s move to abrogate special status to Kashmir.”
With waning support from the Muslim world on Kashmir and the USA’s admonition to Pakistan for only caring about Muslims in Kashmir and not in China, Pakistan may find it hard to raise the Kashmir issue further in international forums or gather stronger international support.