Islamic Countries Refuse To Endorse Pakistan on Kashmir Issue

Despite frenetically banging on global community members’ door for help on Kashmir, no country is offering its shoulder to Pakistan to lean on. Even Islamic nations have refused to show any solidarity with Islamabad as for them trade and investment matter more than plunging head on Kashmir and subsequently, spoil relations with India

By Shankar Kumar

Deep in economic crisis, Pakistan is trying its best to divert its suffering nationals’ attention from rising inflation, unemployment, grinding poverty and widespread chaos on administrative front by creating hue and cry over India’s action on Jammu and Kashmir. In desperation, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi are making frenetic calls to leaders of the Islamic countries and urging them to issue statements against India for its decision to abrogate Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir.

However, over a month has passed since Jammu and Kashmir was bifurcated into the two Union Territories after abrogating Article 370, there is hardly a noticeable statement from heavyweight Islamic countries like UAE, Saudi Arabia and Iran against India on Kashmir. Other Gulf countries like Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman or West Asian countries like Iraq, Syria, Libya and Palestine have refused to comment against India’s action on Kashmir. For Pakistan, this silence of Islamic countries is a matter of deep anguish. In fact, Islamabad was under an impression that Islamic countries, sharing the same ideology and tenet would come out in support of Pakistan on the Kashmir issue. But to the chagrin of Pakistan’s political and military leadership, none of Islamic countries, except for Turkey has expressed negatively on Kashmir. Turkey which has much less significant trade and economic relations with India, has called for Kashmir’s self-determination.

In the fast changing geo-political situation of the world, economy, investment, trade and commerce transcend ideological and cultural moorings. But unfortunately Pakistan has failed to take notice of this ground reality. With the Gulf countries alone, India has over $100 billion worth of annual trade.  Also, the region is a home to over seven million Indians who are engaged not only in blue caller jobs but also white caller jobs. Indian doctors, engineers, chartered accountants, teachers, drivers and construction workers based in the Gulf countries are considered as a key force behind the region’s growth. Thereby, an ocean of goodwill flows between India and the Gulf countries.

And, it became more pronounced when India was invited to become a guest of honour at the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s Abu Dhabi meet in the first week of March this year. This invitation was extended by the UAE, the host of the meet, despite Pakistan’s strong objection and its threat to boycott the event. For the first time in 50 years of OIC’s existence, India was able to attend plenary meet of the organization, speaking volume of relations between New Delhi and OIC member states which seek engagement with India because of its pluralist track record, economic power and global stature.

Just a few days back, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al Jubeir and UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan arrived in Islamabad in what Pakistani leadership claimed for a symbolic show of unity. But instead of issuing any statement against India’s decision to abrogate special status granted to Kashmir, both Saudi and UAE foreign ministers said they “would remain engaged to help address the current challenges, defuse tensions and promote an environment of peace and security.” Moreover, UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan made it clear that Kashmir is not an issue concerning Muslim Ummah,  rather a dispute between Pakistan and India.

Even repeated attempts by Pakistan to make Islamic nations stand in solidarity with Islamabad on Kashmir are not helping it in browbeating India and its Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Instead fact is that the UAE conferred Prime Minister Modi with its highest civilian award ‘Order of Zayad’ despite protest by Pakistan. Similarly, Riyadh has bestowed on Prime Minister Modi ‘King Abulaziz Sash Award’. Besides Bahrain, Palestine and Afghanistan have conferred on the Indian Prime Minister their highest civilian awards, thereby, indicating categorically about New Delhi’s influence and reach among Islamic countries. Interestingly, on August 5 when India announced its decision to scrap Article 370, the UAE became the first OIC member state to support India over its decision.

For this, Pakistan has itself to blame; its international image as a hub of terrorist organization is not liked by Islamic nations. Countries like Bangladesh and Afghanistan are victims of Pakistan grown terrorists’ attacks. Most of the Gulf and Islamic nations are aware of Pakistan Army and ISI’s design in the South Asian region and their tacit role in providing a safe hideout to Al Qaeda chief, Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan where he was ultimately killed by US Special Forces in May 2011. In truth, Pakistan has become a pariah state for Muslim countries themselves. They don’t have as much regard for it as much as it used be in the 1970s and the 1980s. Saudi Arabia and the UAE used to be key friends of Pakistan who used to support Islamabad through thick and thin. A sharp decline in their relationship came in 2015 when Pakistan refused to join the Saudi Arabia-led military campaign against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. In April 2016, Saudi Arabia joined the US in imposing sanctions against Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist group blamed for the 2008 attacks in Mumbai.

In recent times, relations between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have improved. Riyadh gave $3 billion to Pakistan to ease its balance of payment crisis. The UAE also doled out millions of American dollar to help Pakistan avert monetary crisis, yet the two heavy weight Gulf countries are not on the same page with Pakistan when it comes to criticizing India. Across Muslim nations, except for one or two, there is none who are coming forward to buy Pakistan’s argument that special status to Jammu and Kashmir was withdrawn from it because it was the Muslim dominated state. Islamabad’s concerted effort to target India by accusing it of violating human rights of Kashmiris is falling flat on the ears of Islamic countries which have repeatedly made it clear that Kashmir is a bilateral dispute between India and Pakistan and there is no need for third party mediation. In nutshell, in its effort to isolate and defame India, it is Pakistan which has been pushed into the margins of international politics. Therefore, the earlier Islamabad learns it, the better it will be for the country which, ironically, calls for jihad against India.