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Fri. April 19, 2019
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The Organization of Islamic Cooperation: 45 Years of the Collective Muslim World’s Voice
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By Amit R. Saksena

Earlier in 2013, Prof. Ekmeleddin I?hsanoglu, Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation met world press and expressed his most ambitious goal- getting the OIC a permanent seat on the UNSC. The OIC is the biggest intergovernmental organization outside of the UN with a 57 member strength, and in the past decade has seen the Muslim countries rally behind this single mandate to take a position on international matters, making the OIC one of the most prominent global actors. Furthermore, the OIC member states collectively control almost 70% of the world’s crude oil reserves and 50% of the natural gas reserves. Also, though there are only three OIC member countries in the G-20, seven out of the eleven countries in the N-11 are Muslim states.

But despite its existence of forty years and heavy membership, the OIC has miserably failed to solve most of the regional conflicts involving Muslim actors. Present day scenarios in Palestine and Kashmir are the standing examples of this. The atrocities committed against the Afghans, after Russian withdrawal in 1989 and the Bosnian Genocide in 1995 further prove negligible learning experience on the OIC’s part. This may not necessarily spell out a dearth of collective will or the long term vision of the organization, rather it can be a military inhabitation. None of the OIC member states are prominent military powers, with all of them being arms importers and dependent on external defense aid. The organizational structure of the OIC is a good forum for discussion; however it lacks the means for implementing the resolutions.

A critical aspect of the OIC’s reactions is the difference of national interests of its member states. Unlike the EU and ASEAN, the OIC does not have a geographical contiguity thereby resulting in varied views on most regional conflicts or disaster situations. The 2005 Earthquake in Pakistan and Kashmir saw heavy aid from the US, Europe and China, while the OIC was content with just holding sermons for the affected. The Arab Spring, affecting predominant Muslim states in a Muslim majority region, turned into a slaughter fest with mass violation of human rights. While NATO responded to the situation, OIC maintained an ambiguous silence on the issue.

The diversity of membership of the OIC also leads to a conflict of interests within the organization. The political outlook of individual governances disrupts the continuous flow of debate (read: Iran revolutionary, Pakistan conservative, UAE and Turkey modern). This is evident from the Iran-Iraq-Kuwait issue in the 1980’s. Even though Israel is seen as a belligerent by the OIC as a whole (the Israel-Palestine conflict), a lot of members individually have good economic and diplomatic relations with Israel. In fact Saudi Arabia, seat of power of the OIC is considered to be Israel’s closest ally. In essence, the collective political will of the member states’ governments is missing.

India, touted to be the biggest democracy, is also the 3rd biggest country in terms of Muslim population in a state where Islam is not the predominant religion (almost 10% of the world’s Muslims). In 1969, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi tried her best to secure a seat at the OIC, but Pakistan, in conjuncture with Saudi Arabia thwarted the effort. Recently, India again tried to gain entry as an observer state, this time backed up by Saudi Arabia and a majority of the members. However, Pakistan's strong opposition and threat to boycott the OIC led to India's inclusion being blocked. Pakistan evoked a rule of the OIC, which states that an aspirant state should not have an ongoing conflict with a member state. This clearly proves that the member states are primarily driven by their own national interests, before the interest of the Muslims, as a whole.

Amit R. Saksena is an independent researcher and member of the Wikistrat analytic community from New Delhi. He tweets @arsaksena.

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