OIC should end its obsession with Kashmir, turn attention to Uyghurs in China instead

IOK - Indian Occupied Kashmir Jammu & Kashmir

Before giving ill-conceived political statements or press releases on Kashmir, the OIC should brush up on its knowledge of the valley.

By Ayjaz Wani

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation issued a press statement last week reaffirming “its full solidarity with the people of Jammu and Kashmir in their quest for the right to self-determination”. The statement used terms like “illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir” and urged New Delhi to “halt and reverse the illegal and unilateral actions taken on 5 August 2019”. The OIC also called upon the international community to “resolve the issue of Jammu and Kashmir in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions“.

The statement has once again underlined and exposed the organisation’s double standards. When it comes to the repression of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang by Beijing, the OIC and its member countries have remained silent and even endorsed the actions of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on religious restrictions, forced sterilisation, labour, genocide and mass rapes of Muslim women in detention camps.

The OIC’s exclusive actions have once again shattered its competence, credibility and legitimacy when it comes to complying with international obligations. These shameless double standards ascertain OIC as an organisation of hypocrites—immoral and extremely dangerous for global peace and tranquillity. The OIC, founded in 1969 and consisting of 57 member countries, is the world’s second-largest inter-governmental organisation after the United Nations. OIC’s mission statement is the collective voice of the Muslim world, meant to protect and safeguard its interests.

OIC’s infatuation with Kashmir

From its inception, the OIC has been used by some players with vested interests to mislead global discourse on the Kashmir issue. To its general secretariat, Jammu and Kashmir is not illegally occupied by New Delhi. It accepts the common knowledge that to save Jammu and Kashmir from the havoc of Pakistani raiders and Army, Hari Singh, the Maharaja of the princely state, had signed the ‘instrument of accession’ with the Union of India on 26 October 1947. The Indian Army, with the help of Kashmiris, first pushed back Pakistan from Srinagar and then retook Baramulla on 8 November. For the knowledge of the biased OIC, Kashmiris quickly organised a ‘national militia’ with thousands of volunteers who fought alongside the Indian Army. This volunteer organisation helped the armed forces in many ways—from providing food supplies to working as intelligence agents and porters.

As a result, Pakistan failed miserably. Its successive losses in the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war—which led to the Simla Agreement—swung the regional balance of power in India’s favour.

After 1989, Pakistan successfully started a violent radicalisation campaign in Kashmir, which promoted terrorism in the Valley. Furthermore, after the withdrawal of Soviet Union from Afghanistan, Islamabad also manoeuvred battle-hardened militants to Kashmir in a bid to form a new theatre of terrorism.

The people of Kashmir have been used as pawns in this ‘proxy war’ to settle scores with India. This Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir emerged as the foremost national security challenge to New Delhi. Some Kashmir-born political elites and separatists used Articles 370 and 35A as tools to foster separatism and radicalism in the region. A similar argument was made by Home Minister Amit Shah on the floor of the Rajya Sabha in 2019, where he referred to Article 370 as the “root cause” of radicalism and terrorism in the state. The decision to revoke these articles was taken to alter the state’s institutional framework and to transform it economically, politically and socially.

For the information of OIC and its partner nations, after the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A, terror-related incidents have drastically reduced. Protests at encounter sites have vanished and incidents of stone pelting and strikes have become history. Kashmir is transforming as speedily as other parts of India. For instance, a record-breaking 20.5 lakh tourists visited the valley earlier this year. Hotels at prominent holiday destinations have neared 100 per cent occupancy, generating employment for thousands.

Before giving ill-conceived political statements on Kashmir, the OIC should brush up on its knowledge of the valley and shift its focus to Kashmir’s transformation in recent times. The OIC should also ask its member states about the narcotics supplied by Pakistan to Kashmiri youth in a bid to damage the social fabric in the region.

Endorsing Chinese suppression

Ever since Xinjiang was occupied by the CCP in 1949, cultural aggression, forced demographic change and exploitation of resources remained its core objective. The Han population grew from 5 per cent in 1941 to 40 per cent in 1980 whereas the Uyghur Muslim population fell from 80 per cent to 45 per cent during the same period. After 2017, under the direction of Chinese President Xi Jinping, the CCP constructed 1,200 detention camps with an investment of $700 million. In these camps, more than a million Muslims, including Uyghurs, Kazaks and Uzbeks, were detained for offences like wearing a veil, growing a long beard or violating the government’s family planning policy. To turn Uyghur Muslims from their culture, Beijing forced those working in government departments to pledge against performing Namazand even destroyed mosques and shrines. Muslim women in detention camps were tortured, systematically raped and sexually abused by CCP members.

Given the plight of Muslims in these detention camps, the US, EU, Canada and other countries have voiced concerns at regional and global forums, declaring Chinese policies as ‘genocide.’ These countries diplomatically boycotted the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and imposed sanctions on CCP officials.

The OIC and its member countries sabotaged calls from US-led democracies at global forums. They commended China’s efforts in “protecting humans and promoting human rights through development” at these forums. Their latest show of support for China’s repressive policies came when most member countries voted against the US-led motion at UNHRC to hold a debate on the human rights violations in Xinjiang. These nations included Pakistan, Qatar, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Indonesia, Gabon, Cameroon, Mauritania, etc. OIC member countries, since 2017, have sent 682 Uyghur exiles back to China and are working hand-in-glove with the CCP to suppress the voices of Uyghur Muslims.

Political gimmicks apart, the OIC has become an organisation whose members have sold their core values to the Chinese. Instead of giving political statements on Kashmir, the OIC should rethink its stance on the increased economic clout of China. It’s the Uyghurs who need such statements, not the Kashmiris

Ayjaz Wani is a Research Fellow at ORF Mumbai. He is currently working on the project: ‘Kashmir Conflict, Managing Perceptions and Prospectus for Peace.’ Views are personal.