Saudi plans OIC foreign ministers' meeting on Kashmir

Last Updated 29 December 2019, 15:28 IST

Saudi Arabia plans to convene a meeting of the foreign ministers of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation on Kashmir, in an apparent move by the Gulf Kingdom to please Pakistan which skipped a recent summit of Muslim nations in Malaysia seen by Riyadh as an attempt to create a new bloc to replace the dysfunctional OIC led by it.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Sunday confirmed that Islamabad wanted that early meeting of the foreign ministers of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) should be convened to discuss the human rights situation in Kashmir.

"Pakistan desires an early meeting of the foreign ministers of Organization of Islamic Cooperation on the human rights violations in Kashmir," he said while talking to the reporters in his home town of Multan.

Qureshi's confirmation came after media reports here said that Saudi Arabia conveyed to Pakistan through its foreign minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan this week that it was planning to convene a meeting on the Kashmir issue.

State-run Radio Pakistan reported that the ministerial level OIC meeting was expected to be held in Islamabad in April 2020.

The Foreign Minister also said Pakistan had been raising the issue of Kashmir at appropriate forums and accused India of ceasefire violations along the Line of Control.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal was on a day-long visit to Islamabad to convey the Saudi leadership's gratitude to Pakistan for not participating in the recently held Kuala Lumpur summit of Muslim nations in view of the Gulf Kingdom's reservations.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had confirmed Pakistan's participation in the summit hosted by Malaysia, but skipped the event at the eleventh hour due to pressure exerted by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - key financial backers of the cash-stripped country.

Qureshi briefed Prince Faisal on the situation in Kashmir in the aftermath of India's move to abrogate Article 370 on August 5.

"The two Foreign Ministers discussed OIC's role in the advancement of the cause of Kashmir," the Foreign Office said in a statement.

He also "highlighted the Indian Government's actions with regard to CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act 2019) and NRC (National Register of Citizens) and the systematic targeting of minorities in India, particularly Muslims," it said.

The OIC is a 57-member grouping of Muslim majority nations, including Pakistan. The body has usually been supportive of Pakistan and often sided with Islamabad on the Kashmir issue.

In a brief statement, the OIC last week said it was "closely following recent developments affecting Muslim minority in India."

Prince Faisal also called on Prime Minister Khan. The meeting was attended by Foreign Minister Qureshi, Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood, spy agency ISI chief Lt Gen Faiz Hameed and other senior officials.

Khan told the Saudi minister that alleged ceasefire violations by India along the Line of Control were "stoking tensions and imperiling regional peace and security".

The Kuala Lumpur summit had found strong support in Pakistan because of Saudi's growing trade ties with India and the OIC's failure to take strong stance on Muslim issues.

The day-long visit of the Saudi minister came after criticism of the alleged pressure put by the Gulf Kingdom on Pakistan to skip the Kuala Lumpur summit.

The Summit from December 19-21 was seen by Saudis as an attempt to create a new bloc in the Muslim world that could become an alternative to the dysfunctional OIC led by the Gulf Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have extended financial support to the government of Prime Minister Khan to deal with the balance of payment crisis last year.

(Published 29 December 2019, 09:16 IST)

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