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Saudi, UAE blocked Pakistan issuing statement rebuking India over Kashmir   

March 6, 2019 at 3:36 pm

Kashmiri villagers walk past the debris of a house which was damaged by Indian forces in Kashmir on 5 March 2019 [Faisal Khan/Anadolu Agency]

The invitation of India to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Abu Dhabi took many by surprise. While it has long been demanding observer status in the OIC, few expected the Hindu majority state to be invited as guest of honour, especially this year with escalation of its long running feud with Pakistan over Kashmir.

It now seems that New Delhi has profited more than it could have bargained for from joining the group thanks to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. According to Indian sources the Gulf states blocked Pakistan’s bid to issue a joint final statement criticising India over its Kashmir policy.

According to the Economic Times, the OIC had adopted separate resolutions on the Kashmir issue — terming it as the “core” dispute between India and Pakistan, however the final Abu Dhabi Declaration failed to mention any reference to the hotly contested issue. Sources cited in the report said that it was the UAE and Saudi Arabia who played a pivotal role in ensuring India was not criticised or embarrassed by a joint statement.

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The UAE in particular is reported as having ensured that India attended the meeting despite Islamabad’s objections. The OIC and UAE then resisted demands to include Kashmir in the final draft, despite relentless efforts by Pakistan’s delegation.

Diplomatic sources have also reported that that Indian delegation attempted to eliminate the Kashmir dispute from the OIC conference. Indian diplomats in Abu Dhabi are said to have worked tirelessly to shape the opinion of the OIC in India’s favour.

India has described the invitation to the OIC as “a milestone in [our] comprehensive strategic partnership with the UAE”.

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India will be eying full inclusion into the 57-member group. It’s received warm gestures from the UAE since the Forty-Sixth Session of the council of Member states concluded over the weekend. “We can embrace India in the OIC,” the UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, said at a press conference. “I know we are not there yet for obvious reasons,” he added while stating that the OIC sent a very “clear and positive” message to India.

“The OIC appreciates relationship with India and looks forward to strengthen the ties with India,” he added.