External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj is expected to increase the issue of terror when she represents India for the first time at a meeting of foreign ministers of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in the UAE, people familiar with developments said on Thursday.
Swaraj will direct the inaugural plenary session of the meeting in Abu Dhabi on March 1 as a guest of honor, and officials have described the invitation to India as a key foreign policy success in efforts to strengthen relations with Arab and Muslim-majority countries.
Islamabad has conveyed its concerns over New Delhi’s cooperation to the OIC in the wake of the Indian air strike on a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) camp at Balakot on Tuesday – the first time in 48 years fighters jets from India entered Pakistani air space for operation. Acting largely due to pressure from Pakistan, OIC had condemned the air strike as an “incursion and aerial violation” and urged both countries to seek peaceful solutions to the crisis through dialogue.
The Indian side, however, is unfazed by this criticism because of the symbolic significance of the invitation from the OIC in the face of opposition from Pakistan, a founding member of the 56-member grouping.
“There is expected to be a reference to terror by the external affairs minister at OIC,” stated a person familiar with developments who spoke on condition of anonymity. “We will attend. Don’t attach much importance to a statement put out by the (OIC) secretariat at the behest of Pakistan to deter us from attending,” the person added.
India has launched a campaign to mount international pressure on Pakistan to crack down on terror groups operating from its soil after a JeM suicide bomber attacked a Central Reserve Police Force convoy in Pulwama on February 14, shooting 40 troopers.
India will also underscore its long-standing political, economic and other ties with members of the OIC and Swaraj will hold bilateral meetings with counterparts from the UAE and some other nations, the people told.
According to statements in the Pakistani media, Islamabad officially conveyed to the OIC on Wednesday that it may boycott the meeting in Abu Dhabi if the invitation to India isn’t withdrawn. The reports cited a letter written by foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to OIC secretary general Yousef bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen that claimed the UAE to withdraw the invitation.
The letter reiterated Pakistan’s complaints about “violation” of the Line of Control (LoC) during Tuesday’s air strike on Balakot. However, people familiar with developments said the UAE government had made it clear Swaraj will be received with full honor.
The UAE earlier said India is being invited as a guest of honor to the OIC meet because of its “great global political stature as well as its time-honored and deeply rooted cultural and historical legacy and its significant Islamic component”.