The first plenary of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) – or the Islamic Summit Conference – was officially inaugurated at 5:30 pm on Monday, September 22, 1969, at the Hilton Hotel in Rabat. The first plenary session on the morning of 23rd September. That day, the Indian Ambassador to Morocco Gurbachan Singh was called in by the Chief of Protocol and Moroccan Foreign Minister and told that India had been invited unanimously to the conference and India should send a delegation.
The 1969 Plenary Invite, Pakistani Threats and Insult to India
Ambassador Singh accompanied by Dr Abdul Alim, then vice-chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University and his second secretary, Ishrat Aziz went that afternoon to the conference. The plenary session that evening started at 5 pm. They were welcomed by the King of Morocco and the session was informed that the Ambassador would lead the delegation until an official delegation arrived.
That night the conference wounded up at 10 pm and everything was fine. The next morning, however, as the Indian Ambassador was busy working to receive the Indian delegation that was to arrive at 3.30 pm, he was told that he should not attend in the morning session. He delegated the attendance to the other members of the team. He was also told that some riots in Ahmedabad had created some disquiet in the members.
The start of the sessions on 24th was moved from the morning to 1 pm.
This was due to the tantrums thrown by the Pakistani delegation headed by their President Yahya Khan.
During this time members of all the delegations had waited in the conference hall. Rumours were floating around. It transpired that the president of Pakistan was refusing to leave his villa until he received an assurance that the official Indian delegation would not be permitted to participate in the meeting. Many leaders of delegations attempted to telephone him but reportedly he would not even answer the telephone.
When Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, who was a minister in the Indian Government came in he was told by the emissary of the King of Morocco that there was trouble.
Due mainly to the news of the unfortunate events that had taken place in India during the previous few days, three countries had objected to the participation of India. In the circumstances, in order to save the conference from collapse which would be a tragedy, would the Indian delegation agree to accept the status of an observer? Fakhruddin expressed himself firmly to the effect that he was unable to accept this change in status.
Basically after that several official came to meet Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed to suggest that India withdraw from the conference. The Malaysian Prime Minister came and explained that Yahya Khan had refused to leave his residence since the morning until he was assured that Indian delegation will not be present in the conference that day.
At that time Pakistan was a critical Islamic country. And, if it abstained and did not attend, then some other members would also join it.
While almost all the leaders were in favour of Indian participation, Pakistan adamantly refused to change its position and, if Pakistan abstained, it would be followed by three other countries. This would be a catastrophe since the conference would then be a failure.
While the pretext was that India should withdraw or the conference would be jeopardize and India was asked if that is what it wanted. India quickly retorted that the situation of possible failure of the conference was more due to the stance of Pakistan and not India’s. And, in view of what was happening, India wanted it in writing.
First, agreeing to an invitation to India and later threatening to withdraw if India attended the meeting. He concluded that since it was the conference, in plenary, that had unanimously extended an invitation to India, it was only the conference itself that could take a decision to exclude India. In that case he would expect a communication in writing. He added that it should be clear to all that it was not India but Pakistan and those supporting it that were posing a threat to the success of the conference.
The real story was not the Ahmedabad riots but the fact that participation of Indian in the conference had become a big issue in Pakistan. And Yahya Khan’s opponents (Asghar Khan, Bhutto, Mumtaz Daultana) had started agitating against him. That was what prompted the tantrums from Yahya Khan.
The Indian delegation could not attend after that. In the concluding session, the King of Morocco made a reference to the Muslims in India suffering persecution, which was lapped up by the Pakistani press and made into headlines.
The Indian delegation came back insulted.
50 years later, Modi gave it back to Pakistan
This year in the 46th Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, India’s Foreign Minister was invited as ‘Guest of Honour’ to attend the Inaugural Plenary by the Foreign Minister of UAE, Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
This time too Pakistan threw its usual tantrums. And, threatened to not attend the conference if the invitation to India’s Foreign Minister was not rescinded.
Pakistan minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Friday said that he will skip the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) meet in Abu Dhabi because India has been invited to the event. “I will not attend Council of Foreign Ministers as a matter of principle for having extended invitation as a Guest of Honour to Sushma Swaraj,” Shah Mahmood Qureshi said in parliament, adding that other officials would attend to represent Pakistan’s interests.
Qureshi regrettedthat despite Pakistan’s protest, the OIC’s invitation to Swaraj was not rescinded.
But this time around, with PM Modi at the helm of the government, it was Pakistan who had to stay out as the Indian Foreign Minister attended and gave a rousing speech at the Plenary session.
Needless to say, it was an extraordinarily sweet revenge against the insult that Pakistan heaped on the Indian delegation led by Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed! And, this time round, it was a Hindu minister who was leading the delegation!
To understand the importance of what has happened, it is best to hear from someone who understands the dynamics of India’s relationship with the Middle East. Talmiz Ahmed has served as Indian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia (2000-03; 2010-11); Oman (2003-04), and the UAE (2007-10). He was Additional Secretary for International Cooperation in the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas in 2004-06. In 2006-07, he was Director General of the Indian Council of World Affairs, New Delhi.
Let us listen to what he says.
Before we go to him, let us look at what Congress party – whose delegation was kicked out of the first plenary session in 1969 – had to say about this extraordinary Indian revenge and honor to our Foreign Minister.
“What happened in Abu Dhabi is extremely disturbing for India and every citizen of the country, The Organisation of Islamic Coopertaion (OIC) passed the resolution in which they condemn in the strongest possible terms recent wave of ‘Indian terrorism’ in occupied Jammu & Kashmir. He went on and asked the Prime Minister and External Minister of India “Is this your diplomatic achievement, that you got India labeled as a terrorist state. Is this your great diplomatic achievement.” (source)
It is important to understand what these resolutions that Congress is brandishing around really mean. So please listen to what Mr Ahmed says about that resolution as well in his interview.
Needless to say, India has used its position of economic strength, futuristic vision and reforms to position itself to advantage with the OIC. Meanwhile Pakistan, the loser that it is, is just singing the same old tune, which has no meaning in the new world!
While the new blood across Middle East – Saudi Arabia and UAE – bring new energy and ideas to that area, India is the most natural ally of OIC, not Pakistan.
Here is the full speech of Smt Sushama Swaraj, India’s Foreign Minister.