Pakistan is piling on pressure at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, but it all boils down to whether Arab powers will relent.

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) late last month denounced India's removal of Kashmir's 'special status' and called on the Narendra Modi government to respect human rights and “refrain from changing the demographic structure” of the territory, and settle the dispute through the United Nations. Pakistan has been pushing for months for meeting like this one that took place in June this year, and the OIC had been slow to respond.

Conspicuously, individual Arab Gulf states have also not been forthcoming since last year offering tepid or muted responses, or no comment at all.

Worse – both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates even expressed tacit and implicit support for India’s repressive and anti-democratic measures in Kashmir, with the former dismissing New Delhi’s abrogation of Article 370 as an “internal issue,” and the latter arguing it “would improve social justice and security…and further stability and peace.”

Far from “stability and peace,” the situation for Kashmir’s 8 million residents has moved from dire to catastrophic during the past year. India has not only escalated its military presence and anti-militancy operations in the Muslim-majority territory, but has also granted domicile rights to non-Kashmiri Indians, specifically those who have resided in the territory while serving in the military, or educational and civic institutions. 

More than 25,000 domicile certificates have been granted in the past six weeks alone.

“This is a move to disenfranchise and dispossess the people of Jammu and Kashmir and displace them, ultimately. India is moving at a breakneck speed and has fast-tracked the issuing of these domicile certificates to non-natives,” Sardar Masood Khan, President of Pakistan Administered Kashmir, told me via telephone.

“We are moving towards a human rights apocalypse in the Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir,” said Khan.

In an international virtual conference convened in Istanbul on Sunday and Monday, both Khan and Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Information Shibli Faraz called on both the United Nations and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to “take immediate steps to stop India changing demography and distinct identity of the Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir.”

Adding further specifics, Khan proposed a “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” movement against India, one modelled on the successful BDS Israel campaign, which began in 2005. Khan advocates that the import of 'non-halal meat and non-halal products from India' be banned.

This is Pakistan throwing down a direct challenge to the OIC, calling upon Muslim-majority countries to implement immediate and concrete measures to disrupt India’s effort to carry out demographic change in Kashmir.

So, how might the 57-member OIC respond?

If you’re looking to the past as a guide, then it’s reasonable to conclude the OIC will respond to India’s violations of international law and humanitarian law in Kashmir by doing what it has always done: offer condemnations that lack actionable substance. 

The OIC might boast to being “the collective voice for the Muslim world,” but its actions tend to fall in line with the foreign policy of objectives of its biggest financial contributors – the oil rich Arab Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia and UAE. A reality driven by the fact that India has become the region’s second-largest consumer of petroleum.

The disconnect between the OIC’s stated mission and realities on the ground for Muslims in Kashmir is also revealed in the manner in which it lauded praise on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2019. 

Forgotten and forgiven, evidently, was Modi’s role in the Gujarat riots in 2002, which left more than 2,000 Muslims dead, and Modi, who was then Gujarat Chief Minister, banned from entering the United States for his role in instigating and inciting the violence.

“These countries awarded Modi at a time when he was killing Muslims in India and Occupied Kashmir,” British Parliamentarian Lord Nazir Ahmed told me. “Sadly, OIC will predictably issue just another statement rather than demanding sanctions.”

“I think Saudi Arabia, UAE and other GCC countries need to be exposed. They are hypocrites,” said Lord Ahmed.

But where there’s crisis, there’s also hope – and when it comes to Kashmir, hope can be found in Arab countries, where growing and measurable anger towards India’s repressive and discriminatory policies towards Muslims in Kashmir, and 180 million more in India, can be found. 

This rage was sparked thanks to efforts by right-wing Indians to blame Muslims for the spread of Covid-19, and anti-Muslim posts made on social media by Indian expatriates living in Dubai.

“Thanks to anti-Muslim bias in the media and even official messaging over the coronavirus in India, the intelligentsia in India-friendly Gulf countries, like Kuwait and UAE, has started critically examining the ruling BJP’s attitudes towards Muslims and Arabs,” observes the Indian online newspaper The Wire.

Moreover, Arab populations are now starting to identify and compare India’s recent moves in Kashmir with Israel’s illegal colonisation of the Palestinian territories, which leaves Arab rulers with reduced political space to continue their unfettered support for the current Indian government. Countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE may soon find it increasingly difficult to resist Pakistan’s call for a BDS campaign against New Delhi.

None of this augurs well for Modi’s Hindu-nationalist agenda in Indian-occupied Kashmir.

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