Here’s what the UN, EU, and OIC have to say about mounting Indo-Pak tensions

After Indo-Pak tensions escalated following the deadly Pulwama attack, countries and international organisations, including the Organisation of Islami Cooperation (OIC), urged the two countries to ‘exercise restraint’.

In February, a suicide bomber belonging to Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), a Pakistan-based terrorist group, killed 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) jawans.

In retaliation, the Indian Air Force (IAF) crossed the Line of Control (LoC) to enter Balakot and conduct airstrikes on JeM terror camps.

Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said that Indians authorities decided to take matters into their own hands because “Pakistan has taken no concrete actions to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism on its soil.”

This further increased friction between the two neighbours who have a precarious relationship to begin with.

The IAF and Pakistani Air Force (PAF) duelled aerially, resulting in an IAF pilot being captured for three days.

The pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, has been released to India as a peace gesture, says Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.

All the while, international actors have called on India and Pakistan to hold diplomatic talks instead of acting militarily.

What did the OIC say?

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is the second-largest international body after the United Nations.

It serves as a platform to discuss political, social, and economic issues impacting Muslim communities all over the world.

“It endeavours to safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony among various people of the world,” says the OIC.”

For the first time in OIC’s history, India was invited to attend the 46th session of the OIC, as a guest of honour, in March 2019.

“The friendly country of India has been named as the guest of honour in view of its great global stature as well as its time-honoured and deeply rooted cultural and historical legacy, and its important Islamic component,” said the OIC about why it invited India.

However, India’s relationship with the OIC is frayed, at best.

It has often been blocked from participating in OIC deliberations because Pakistan has called for boycotts from as early as 1969.

Moreover, the OIC’s stance on Kashmir directly contradicts India’s: the OIC believes that Kashmiris should be allowed to hold a referendum, while India believes that Kashmir is its territory.

The OIC has even gone as far as to condemn “the killing of innocent Kashmiris by #Indian forces in Indian-occupied #Kashmir (#IOK)”. The organisation called this a “terrorist act”, as well.

In 2016, the MEA even issued a statement stating that the OIC had no right to discuss the Kashmir dispute or “matters internal to India”.

But when the 2019 invitation to attend the OIC came, it was celebrated as a progressive, amicable one, especially because it allowed India to have an equal say in the council along with Pakistan.

However, events at the OIC after Pulwama and Balakot stirred some trouble.

While Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj spoke, the Pakistani Foreign Minister Mehmood Qureshi boycotted her speech.

Qureshi also said, “I will not attend Council of Foreign Ministers as a matter of principle” until the two countries ease tensions.

He added that Pakistan had more of a right to an audience in the OIC than India because it is a founding member of the Council and India is speaking for the first time ever.

According to India Today, Palestinian Foreign Minister Dr. Riad Malik said, “It is bad. But, still we will do our best to bring about an understanding for the two sides to sit and talk to each other.

Regardless, at the OIC, Swaraj said that terrorism was not a clash of civilisations, but a “struggle between the values of humanism and forces of inhumanity.”

She clarified that the fight against terrorism was not one against a specific religion.

Malik noted his appreciation for Swaraj mentioning the plight of the Palestinian people in her remarks and said that Palestine and India are working to strengthen bilateral ties.

Other international responses

US President Donald Trump said that American officials were in the midst of brokering peace between India and Pakistan. However, he did not provide any specific details.

“I think, reasonably attractive news from Pakistan and India… They’ve been going at it and we’ve been involved in trying to have them stop… Hopefully, that’s going to come to an end…” he said.

Moreover, the European Union (EU) also urged India and Pakistan to exercise restraint and hold peace talks.

High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini said, “We expect both countries to now exercise utmost restraint and avoid any further escalation of the situation.”

Another interesting development is the offer by Iran to mediate between Pakistan and India.

News18 reported that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made a phone call to his Pakistani counterpart Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi offering to be a middleman between the two countries.

India has not commented on this offer, yet.

Iran’s efforts to insert itself smack in the middle of India and Pakistan can be because of Saudi Prince’s recent visit to both countries.

Iran and Saudi Arabia’s roots in mutual conflict and dislike are deep and the two act like counter weights in the Middle east.

After the Saudi Prince Mohammad bin Salman arranged for diplomatic visits to both, India and Pakistan, to earn some international social credit after being accused of facilitating Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, it seems like a good political move for Iran to counter Saudi influence in South Asia.

Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed also said that he made calls to India and Pakistan asking them to prioritise “dialogue and communication”.

While the release of Abhinandan was appreciated as a gesture of peace, Indian officials consider it only an obligatory adherence to the terms of the Geneva Conventions that Pakistan has signed.

Rhea Arora is a staff writer at Qrius

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