Despite Pakistan’s efforts to get External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj disinvited from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) meet starting tomorrow in Abu Dhabi, Swaraj, the guest of honour, will be warmly welcomed to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Seen as a citadel of tolerance and exclusivity, the UAE has created a new benchmark in allowing religious freedom while retaining its Islamic identity. Home to 134 nationalities, the UAE recently played host to Pope Francis with over 135,000 people gathering for holy communion, is home to one of the grandest gurdwaras in the world and has on the anvil a massive Hindu temple.
Add to this open and sensible mindset the warmth and co-operation that exists between Abu Dhabi and New Delhi, shored up and strengthened by bilateral top-level visits, and the cordiality and closeness that marked them, and it was extremely unlikely that Swaraj would have been asked to stand down.
The UAE doesn't do that sort of thing. In fact, its aim is to bring the world closer and India has taken the right decision in appreciating the gesture. "We see this invitation as a milestone in our comprehensive strategic partnership with the UAE. We also see this invitation as a welcome recognition of the presence of 185 million Muslims in India and of their contribution to its pluralistic ethos, and of India's contribution to the Islamic world," India said in a statement accepting UAE foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan's invite.
Two other factors to keep in mind: The UAE has over 3 million Indians working across the spectrum, who are generally seen as peace-loving and industrious. But more importantly, the very essence of inclusivity that drives the UAE to being an oasis of peace and prosperity also indicates that even if India is not an Islamic state, there is a need to create a relationship with the OIC... at least to have its nation be an honorary associate as a first step.
This aim has been achieved with the invitation to Swaraj — on a roll from her China trip — and her comments and observations at this crucial juncture will be of profound interest to the OIC members. Any efforts they can make to defuse the serious tension on the India-Pakistan border will be on the agenda.
It will also be an occasion for Swaraj to establish sincere bona fides with these member states, allay their fears and grasp the nettle over terrorism across the globe and how it can be eliminated with mutual cooperation and intent. Tomorrow, Swaraj will address the Council of Foreign Ministers of the OIC.
Since 1969, when India had to prematurely leave the Rabat conference, the country's relationship with the OIC has been chilled (at best). The UAE stepped forward and used its good offices to generate goodwill and end a 50-year standoff that now may become central to global peace. India has a significant role to play and improved mutual understanding and a removal of baseless doubts and suspicions will go a long way in achieving this elusive objective.
Political analyst Anjana Sankar, writing in the Khaleej Times prior to the curtain being raised, stated: "... It is also noteworthy that the invitation landed in India's lap immediately after the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to New Delhi. Politically, the OIC invite will give the Bharatiya Janata Party government a few brownie points. It signals Modi's willingness to reach out to the Islamic world and represent the concerns of its 185-million strong Muslim population..."
It is also likely that behind the scenes Swaraj and her entourage will endeavor to reignite the issue of membership into the OIC. This could well be the first step to achieving that goal.
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Updated Date: Feb 28, 2019 21:18:38 IST