The 48Th Session of OIC’s Council of Foreign Ministers
A look at the Islamabad Declaration
The 48th summit of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) was held on 22-23 March in Islamabad, with a resolve to promote and protect the common interests of the Muslim world, and support the just causes of Palestine and Kashmir. Forty-six countries participated in the moot at the ministerial level, while the other countries were represented by senior officials. Nearly 800 delegates attended the meeting hosted by Islamabad. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was the special guest at the conference. It was the first time in OIC’s history that a Chinese foreign minister attended a meeting of CFM, indicating Beijing’s expanding role in the Muslim world.
The meeting agenda included deliberations on the situation in Palestine, Indian Illegally-Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) and Afghanistan. Also, issues pertaining to Africa and Muslims in Europe and developments in Yemen, Libya, Sudan, Somalia and Syria were taken up during the meet. Islamophobia, international terrorism and cooperation in economic, cultural, social, humanitarian and scientific domains were the other subjects discussed there. A wide-ranging Islamabad Declaration, containing as many as 70 points, was adopted at the conclusion of the conference.
In this Declaration, the participants rejected terrorism in all forms and manifestations as well as attempts to attribute it to any country, religion, nationality, race or civilization. The contents of the declaration are inspired by noble Islamic values and ideals enshrined in the OIC Charter; they are also anchored in the principles and purposes of UN Charter.
The Islamabad Declaration renewed solidarity with the people of Kashmir and expressed full support for their inalienable right to self-determination. It, moreover, condemned the human rights violations in IIOJK and rejected India’s illegal and unilateral actions related to Kashmir since August 5, 2019. The OIC foreign ministers also expressed concern over Indian missile striking a building in Pakistani territory (near Mian Channu) on March 09 and put their weight behind Pakistan’s demand for a joint probe to accurately establish facts.
The OIC Secretary General Hissein Brahim Taha, while speaking at a media conference at the end of the 48th meeting of the 57-member body, said: “Palestine remains high on the agenda of OIC and was discussed thoroughly. All participating ministers reiterated their support for the Palestine cause. The question of Jammu and Kashmir was thoroughly discussed. This is a just cause. It has our full support. The conference reaffirmed our stance and reiterated support for the right of Kashmiri people to self-determination.”
The Declaration, which captures the summit’s theme of “Partnering for Unity, Justice and Development,” represents the assessment of the global political, security, humanitarian, economic and technological issues, and our vision and views to address them. It articulates the resolve of the OIC member states to support the just causes such as Palestine, Kashmir and others. It vows to unify efforts to address the common challenges faced by the Muslim Ummah, and to uphold the “rights and interests” of Muslim minorities in the non-OIC countries. The OIC, as per the Declaration, would pursue a “shared vision” for greater social, economic, scientific and technological development and integration within the Muslim world and beyond. It reaffirmed a collective desire to promote harmony, tolerance and peaceful co-existence, better standards of life, as well as human dignity and understanding among all people. The Declaration includes a proposal for convening a ministerial meeting later this year or next to evolve solutions and develop mechanisms and tools to prevent conflicts and promote peace.
The Declaration hailed the unanimous decision of UN General Assembly to proclaim March 15 as International Day to Combat Islamophobia as well as the Islamabad summit’s decision to appoint a special envoy in this regard. Rejecting terrorism, it reiterated the OIC’s strong position against attempts to equate the legitimate struggle of people for self-determination with terrorism. It welcomed the operationalization of the Afghanistan Humanitarian Trust Fund, which was signed in March 2022 in Islamabad. It also pointed out the member states’ views on the devastating social and economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic as well as the climate change on developing countries, and called for a “series of concrete” actions on coronavirus vaccine equity, debt relief, countering of illicit financial flows and fulfilment of climate financing commitments as well as technology transfer and capacity building. It also acknowledged the growing role of innovation and emerging technologies in stimulating growth and digital transformation, and expressed shared resolve to promote linkages and partnerships. Meanwhile, Pakistan is ready to support Islamabad’s initiative of mediation between Russia and Ukraine amid war.
In all, the Islamabad Declaration appears to be a comprehensive document, addressing around 70 points. These cover disputes affecting the Muslim world as well as conflicts in non-Muslim areas, such as the Ukraine-Russia war. Palestine, Kashmir and Afghanistan all feature prominently in the document, as does the plight of the Rohingya and the attempts to counter Islamophobia. Now comes the hard part; the member states of the OIC must now work to ensure that the people of IIOJK and Palestine are given full support to achieve freedom. This is not impossible, but simply requires the will of all OIC member states for such a goal to be achieved. For example, India and Israel — the subjugators of the Kashmiri and Palestinian peoples, respectively — must be told clearly that the brutal treatment of these occupied populations must end forthwith. What is more, those states that help and abet India and Israel’s cruel treatment must also be told clearly that this will not be tolerated. Muslim sates rushing to embrace Israel and India must reassess their priorities.
If the Muslim world’s collective wealth and geopolitical capabilities are put to good use to help liberate Kashmir and Palestine, the goal can indeed be within sight. After all, the 1973 ‘oil weapon’ that the Arabs deployed against Israel’s benefactors shook the West. If similar steps are taken today, other powers will take the OIC more seriously.
The fact is that empty words are useless. In the cold world of geopolitics, it is actions that matter. If the OIC is serious about addressing the plight of the Muslim world, it must resist the oppression of outsiders, and work to avoid internal dissensions. With massive energy, economic and military potential, the OIC can be transformed into a powerful global bloc that has the clout to protect its own members and speak out for oppressed people everywhere in the world. It is up to the Muslim world’s kings, presidents and princes to take up the gauntlet.
The writer is a PhD scholar (English Literature). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org