India has yet again denounced Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) call to settle Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN resolution, a stand which the organization has consistently taken and regularly renewed . In the past also, India has treated such calls with disdain either by charging the organization to act at the behest of Pakistan or on the ground of it’s locus standi in the matter .
But whatever be it’s allegation or view of the organization, the fact of the matter is that India once aspired to become a member of this organization of fifty seven Islamic Countries covering a population of nearly two billions at present and even made its entry into organization’s first plenary session. India’s short tryst with OIC is therefore, a small but interesting piece of history which metaphorically speaking terminated even before it was read or recorded.
The Organization itself is a product of the Islamic Summit Conference held at Rabat on September 22-25, 1969. The provocation for that gathering was the desecration of the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. Activating her diplomatic channels, India desired to be its member to neutralize Pakistan’s influence in the organization on the ground that the desecration of the third holiest place in Islam was a matter of concern to all Muslims and not merely to “Muslim states” and that India, with its very large Muslim population, was entitled to be concerned. King Faisal of Saudi Arabia & King Hassan of Morocco, the two founder members of the organization accepted the argument and were personally instrumental in having India invited to the Conference. However, since the gathering was an inter-governmental one, only the Government of India could be invited. Consequently, at the invitation of founder members, India participated in the third session of the Conference, on the afternoon of September 23. The speech of the Indian delegate forms part of the official records of the Conference.
When president of Pakistan, Yahya Khan arrived in Rabbat to participate in the conference, he was told by King Faisal of Saudi Arabia (through an interpreter) that he, King Hussein of Jordan, King Hassan of Morroco and the president of Egypt thought that it made sense for India to be part of the global Islamic group given the number of Indian Muslims which is far more than most other Islamic States who have gathered for the conference. He further added that the proposal was being shared with Pakistan to elucidate its views and if approved, the Indians would need to be informed of the invitation right away so as to enable it to join the remaining two working sessions.
At the conference hall Yahaya Khan met the other members of Pakistan delegation namely Foreign Secretary S.M.Yusuf, Pakistan’s Permanent representative to UN Aga Shahi & Pakistan’s ambassador to Morocco Mr. Tayyabji. He briefed them in whispers on everything he had just heard from King Faisal. It was left to the team and more particularly Agha Shahi to advise the president about the implications of the proposal and whether he should reject it or allow India to become a member by adopting silence on the issue?
But before Pakistan could make its reaction known, King Hassan of Morroco delivered an eloquent speech and without taking any concurrence from Pakistan, proposed that India should become a member of OIC. The proposal was seconded jointly by King Hussein of Jordan & King Faisal of Saudi Arabia. Decks were thus cleared for India to become a full fledged member . King Hassan even changed the scheduled order of speakers to allow Indian ambassador, Mr. Gurbachan Singh to make his presentation.
Pakistan was taken by utter surprise. It was a coup of sorts engineered by India and if that day had gone on, India would have squeezed through and history would have been different today. Interestingly, it was three Pakistani journalists namely Naseem Hussain of Dawn, Abrar Hussain of Pakistan press international and Jabbar Ahmad of Pakistan observer who visited Yahya Khan at night and convinced him to staunchly oppose India’s entry to OIC. A Plan was formulated according to which the next day, Yahya Khan would feign illness and threaten to fly out of Rabat without attending the plenary session of OIC. It was thought the move would sound death knell for the organization, if the world’s then largest Muslim country walked out of the conference. The Pakistan press team took it upon itself to selectively leak the real story to international media so as to reach the hosts.
Upon learning the actual story, King Hussein rushed to Hotel in which yahya was staying and told him,
“Sir, I’m here with a profound apology from King Faisal, King Hassan and from me. We created this unfortunate fiasco without realizing what we were getting into. In fact, I must admit we were conned into this by the crafty Indian ambassador to Morocco. It was not until we read in this morning’s newspapers the in-depth analysis and the far reaching implications and ramifications our decision would have on Pakistan. We are, therefore, sorry for the anxieties we’ve caused you. However, to make amends King Hassan, in his capacity as the chairman of Islamic Conference has decided to withdraw the invitation extended to Indians and bar the Indian delegation from entering Morocco. He’ll declare the Indian ambassador persona non-grata, for overstepping his representation as mandated by Geneva Conventions and for interfering and misguiding members of the conference. Sir, we hope these steps would vindicate the correct and resolute stance you have taken. In view of this and the fact that the whole world is focused on this First Islamic Summit, I’m here to request you to please reconsider your decision to return to Pakistan and attend the conference with your full delegation” (Three Presidents and an Aide: Life, Power and Politics-By Arshad Sami)
Yaha Khan accepted the apology and attended the conference in which India was discreetly told to lay off.
But India has not abandoned its discreet diplomatic efforts to gain an entry in OIC to neutralize Pakistan. On the eve of his visit to India in 2006, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, in an interview to an Indian newspaper, remarked that “India should have an observer status in the Organization of the Islamic Conference similar to that held by Russia & Thailand.” He added it would be “beneficial” if India’s entry was proposed “by a nation like Pakistan.”Pakistan vociferously opposed the idea and quoted a rule according to which no country which is in dispute over an issue with an existing member can be admitted in the organization. Quoting Kashmir dispute, Pakistan was able to block the Indian attempt to gain an entry.
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