Prof. Noor Ahmad Baba
The 57 member Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) came up in 1969 manifestly with the objective of promoting Islamic solidarity and to consolidate cooperation among Muslim countries. Through its regular conferences OIC has been involved in the socio, political and diplomatic interface with the world community at large and has dealt with different issues concerning Muslim communities around the world within the limitations of the state-centric world order.
One of such issues dealt within the OIC has been that of Kashmir, taken up mainly on the initiative of Pakistan. However, tied down by the terms of the Shimla agreement Kashmir was rarely raised by Pakistan in the initial 20 years of the OIC’s existence (i.e., 1969-1989). It is only from 1990 onwards, that Kashmir has been part of the proceedings of the OIC as a full-fledged issue on its agenda. Till then Kashmir figured occasionally in the OIC sessions simply as a passing reference in the statements of the Pakistani representatives. Pakistan’s diplomatic success in getting Kashmir issue on the OIC agenda has been for the deteriorating situation and with the rise of militancy and a pro-independence uprising in Kashmir. The OIC Secretariat as early as May 22, 1990 issued a statement on Kashmir. The statement cited information drawn from various sources, on what it described as the reign of terror let loose on the Muslims of Kashmir.
The conference for the first time in its history witnessed a thorough debate on the issue during the nineteenth conference of Islamic Foreign Ministers held in Cairo from August 1-5, 1990. In the very first speech during the conference the outgoing chairman of the conference, Prince Saud al-Faisal, Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, raised the Kashmir issue with full vigour. The conference passed a comprehensive resolution on the issue. This happened in spite of the fact that with the Iraqi invasion of the Kuwait in midst of the ongoing conference, issues like Kashmir were relegated to the secondary importance. However, the resolution on Kashmir called for a peaceful settlement of the dispute in accordance with the relevant UN resolutions and as agreed upon in the Shimla Agreement. The mention of Shimla Agreement in the resolution reflected some kind of accommodation of the Indian viewpoint on the issue.
Since then Kashmir regularly figured as part of the agenda in all the subsequent conferences held either at summit or at the foreign ministers’ level. During the twentieth Session of foreign ministers, the debate on the issue was prompted by the report of the OIC Secretary General, Hamid al-Gabid presented before the conference. The report, dealt with the politico-legal dimensions of the Kashmir issue and the problem of the human rights violation in the Kashmir valley. In its final communiqu?, the conference called for a peaceful settlement of the dispute in accordance with the relevant United Nations resolutions and as agreed upon in the Shimla agreement. While condemning what it called the massive violation of human rights of the Kashmiri people, it called upon India to respect these rights and allow International human rights groups and other humanitarian organizations to visit Kashmir. While expressing deep concern over the prevailing tension in the region the conference asked India and Pakistan to re-deploy their forces to peacetime locations. The conference also renewed its offer of sending a good offices mission to ease tension between the two countries and promote a peaceful settlement of the problem. It also asked the Secretary General to constitute a three-member fact-finding mission to visit Jammu and Kashmir. All this meant granting certain amount of international legitimacy to the disputed position of Kashmir. That is why India reacted strongly to what it called a pro-Pak resolution. An external affairs ministry spokesman said that, the OIC had no locus standi in the matter. He added that there was absolutely no question of India accepting any good offices mission or any fact-finding mission to Kashmir from abroad as suggested by the conference. Latter in the same year (December 1991) at the Summit Level Conference (6th) at Senegal, Kashmir was one of the prominent issues on the agenda. The Summit adopted a resolution on Kashmir in line with the one passed at the previous Foreign Ministers Conference at Istanbul with a slight change in wording. Henceforth, in all the subsequent conferences, the OIC has been regularly passing resolutions on Kashmir on the same lines. These resolutions broadly deal with following three aspects:
1. Asking India and Pakistan to resolve the problem in accordance with the UN resolutions and as agreed under the Shimla agreement;
2. Impressing India to respect the Human rights of the Kashmiri People and condemn the violation of such rights;
3. Asking India to allow the OIC’s fact finding mission to visit Kashmir and allow it to undertake an on the sport study of the situation there.
This is being repeated in spite of the fact that India had already rejected the OIC’s plea in this regard. Subsequently, the OIC gave a sort of diplomatic recognition to the All Parties Hurriyat Conference by granting the Observer Status to it. Henceforth the Hurriyat Conference is being regularly invited to various conferences of the OIC. In 1994 the OIC Foreign Ministers Conference also agreed to coordinate their actions and policies over Kashmir. For this purpose it decided to form a contact group. The group was also supposed to inform OIC of the situation in Kashmir and to lobby at the UN and other International forums. It was in its recent meetings on the sidelines of the 64th session of UN General Assembly that the group among other things appointed its envoy on Kashmir to mediate on the issue. Predictably India has rejects OIC move saying that the group has no locus standi on the issue.
(Prof Baba teaches political science at University of Kashmir and is the author of Organisation of Islamic Conference: Theory and Practice of Pan Islamic Cooperation)