OIC members join chorus against Uri attack

The OIC is the most critical international grouping which has been vocal on the Kashmir situation in the past and has been toeing Pakistan’s line on human rights violations over the last two months.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi | Updated: September 21, 2016 11:50 am
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WITH ALL the P-5 countries — the UN Security Council’s five permanent members — condemning the Uri attack, New Delhi is now working the phones to garner the support of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member countries. This is a key element of India’s diplomatic offensive, as Delhi tries to stitch together broad international support in its aim to isolate Pakistan.

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So far, New Delhi’s diplomatic outreach in the last 48 hours has yielded statements from some of the major players in the OIC grouping — Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain. Some of them like UAE and Bahrain have, in their statements, even supported any action by India to confront, eradicate and fight terrorism — at a time when Delhi is discussing a range of military, diplomatic, political and economic options to retaliate against Pakistan.

Besides, three of India’s neighbours — Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Maldives — which are also OIC members, have already condemned the attack. In fact, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani called up Prime Minister Narendra Modi to convey his condemnation and support to India in the fight against terrorism. All SAARC member countries, including Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, have also condemned the attack.

According to government sources, the OIC is the most critical international grouping which has been vocal on the Kashmir situation in the past and has been toeing Pakistan’s line on human rights violations over the last two months.

Government sources said the idea behind getting OIC members to condemn the attack is to portray Pakistan as the perpetrator and isolate it diplomatically. Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Joint Secretary (in charge of Gulf region) Mridul Kumar and Joint Secretary (in charge of West Asia and North Africa) B Bala Bhaskar have been liaising with envoys from these countries, and the Indian missions have also reached out to the governments there.

Though the OIC members have not named Pakistan, Delhi is quite pleased with their formulation so far — barring a few nuances.

From India’s perspective, the most important statement among the OIC members has been from Saudi Arabia, which has conveyed its “strong condemnation and denunciation of the terrorist attack”. South Block is pleased that Saudi Arabia, which has been Pakistan’s benefactor for decades now, has come up with the statement.

The UAE, another supporter of Pakistan, has also “condemned” the attack and expressed “solidarity and support to all actions it (India) may take to confront and eradicate terrorism”.

Although Qatar, another key member of the OIC, has condemned the attack, it has called it a “criminal attack”, while reiterating its “stance rejecting violence and terrorism in all its forms and manifestations”.

South Block officials pointed out that Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited all these three countries in the last two years.

Bahrain, which has a strong Indian expatriate community, has also expressed “full support” to India in its “actions to counter terrorism, renewing the kingdom’s firm position against all forms of terrorism and calling for concerted efforts to eliminate it and cut off its funding”.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj visited the country last year and held a meeting of heads of Indian missions in the region there.

On Tuesday, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena also called up the PM to condemn the terror attack.

By evening, South Block officials pointed to the US State Department spokesperson’s comments on Secretary of State John Kerry’s meeting with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif — which was perceived as an endorsement of New Delhi’s position.

John Kirby, the US State Department spokesperson, said Kerry “reiterated the need for Pakistan to prevent all terrorists from using Pakistani territory as safe havens”. He said Sharif and Kerry “expressed strong concern with recent violence in Kashmir — particularly the army base attack — and the need for all sides to reduce tensions. Kerry also stressed the need for restraint in nuclear weapons programmes.

Apart from the P-5 countries — US, UK, France, Russia and China — countries like Germany, Japan, Canada, South Korea and Mauritius are among the countries which have condemned the attack so far.

“While External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will be raising the pitch at the UNGA, Minister of State (External Affairs) M J Akbar will also be meeting senior officials and counterparts in New York. It will be an all-out diplomatic offensive,” said an official privy to South Block’s plans.