OIC’s curious record on Xinjiang

While the bloc has made repeated references to Kashmir, it has been ambivalent about China’s treatment of Uighurs
In an epochal development, India became the ‘Guest of Honour’ at the 46th session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) held in Abu Dhabi in March. The final declaration eschewed the customary reference to Jammu and Kashmir. This can be considered unique since the previous Dhaka Declaration in May 2018 had contained this reference. Credit must go to the strong personal and state-to-state ties built by the Narendra Modi government with important OIC states, especially the UAE. At the same time, one of the resolutions did refer to Kashmir and expressed concern at the situation of Muslims in India. The OIC, representing 57 member states and a population of about 1.8 billion people, is the world’s second-largest intergovernmental organisation after the UN and is committed to protecting the interests of the Muslim world. It routinely expresses solidarity with Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Bosnia, as well as with the peoples of the Turkish Cypriot state, Kosovo and Jammu and Kashmir. However, the organisation, while making repeated references to Jammu and Kashmir, has traditionally disregarded the fact that India is a democratic and secular country, where every citizen is protected by the Constitution and is free to practise one’s religion. It has also conveniently disregarded the fact that India regularly holds State and general elections, including in Jammu and Kashmir. Earlier, a Human Rights Watch report issued in September 2018 had also criticised Beijing’s policies in Xinjiang. On its part, China has defended its policies and claimed that its so-called ‘internment camps’ are actually vocational centres meant to “to educate and save [the local people of Xinjiang] who were influenced by religious extremism”. In its White Paper in November 2018, Beijing had projected Xinjiang’s culture as an integral part of Chinese culture. The organisation remains mindful of how far it can go with its criticism of Beijing considering that China is a major power, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, a large market for hydrocarbons and a source of arms and investment. Moreover, China refrains from preaching to others about human rights or systems of governance. As China’s continued import of oil from Iran suggests, countries under U.S. pressure and sanctions often turn to China for relief. In return, they do their best to guard China’s interests at the OIC. However, OIC countries, under the influence of Pakistan, support resolutions against India despite having excellent bilateral ties with the country. Recent developments — a call from Pakistan’s Minister for Religious Affairs Pir Noor-ul-Haq Qadri urging China to lift restrictions on Muslims in Xinjiang and Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan chief Sirajul Haq’s raising concerns about the Uighur issue with the Chinese Ambassador — must, hence, have come as deep embarrassment to the OIC. The author is director general of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. Views expressed are personal

Source : https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/oics-curious-record-on-xinjiang/article28567389.ece

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