• The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is the second largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations with a membership of 57 states spread over four continents.
  • The Organization is the collective voice of the Muslim world. It endeavors to safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony among various people of the world.
  • The priority areas of OIC include issues of Peace and Security, Palestine and Al-Quds (Arabic name
    for Jerusalem), Poverty Alleviation, Counter-terrorism, Investment and Finance, Food Security, Science and Technology, Climate Change and Sustainability, Moderation, Culture and Interfaith Harmony, Empowerment of Women, Joint Islamic Humanitarian Action, Human Rights and Good Governance, among others.
  • The Organisation of the Islamic Conference was established by the First Islamic Summit Conference held in Morocco in September 1969, to marshal the Islamic world after an act of arson at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jersualem by a 28-year-old Australian in 1969.
  • Population: 1.81 billion (23% of world’s population) with 53 countries being Muslim-majority countries.
  • Members’ resources: 70% of world crude oil reserves; 50% of world natural gas reserves
  • Four members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) are in the OIC – Bangladesh, Maldives, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  • There are OIC permanent delegations to the UN and the EU.
  • The OIC has many organs and universities under its wing.
  • It has 57 member Countries, 56 of which are also member states of the United Nations, the exception being Palestine.
    • Palestine is also a member of the OIC (it is not a member of the UN).
    • India is not a Member of OIC.
  • Its official languages are Arabic, English and French.
  • Not all members are Muslim-majority ones although they have a significant Muslim population. (E.g. Countries in West Africa and South America).
  • Observer states:
    • Bosnia and Herzegovina
    • Central African Republic
    • Northern Cyprus (Turkish Cypriot State)
    • Thailand
    • Russia
  • Observer International Organisations:
    • NAM
    • UN
    • League of Arab States
    • African Union
    • Economic Cooperation Organisation.
Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)
  • The OIC endeavours to establish solidarity among member states.
  • To support restoration of complete sovereignty and territorial integrity of any member state under occupation.
  • To protect, defend and combat defamation of Islam.
  • To prevent growing dissention in Muslim societies and work to ensure that member states take a united stand at the U. N. General Assembly, Human Rights Council and other international fora.
  • Headquarters: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
  • The organisation plans to permanently move its headquarters to East Jerusalem once the disputed city is ‘liberated’.
  • Moreover, it aspires to hold Israel accountable for ‘War Crimes’ and violations of international law.
OIC charter:
  • The organisation adheres to a charter that lays out its objectives, principles and operating mechanism.
  • First adopted in 1972, the charter has been revised multiple times in line with emerging conditions in the developing world.
  • The present charter was adopted in March 2008 at Dakar in Senegal.
  • It enshrines that all members be guided and inspired by the noble Islamic teachings and values alongside committing themselves to the purposes and principles of the U. N. charter.
Organisation of Islamic Cooperation

How does OIC Function?

  • Membership:
    • U. N. members with a Muslim majority can join the organisation.
    • The membership is to be ratified with full consensus at the OIC’s Council of Foreign Ministers.
    • The same provisions apply for acquiring an observer status.
  • Decision Making:
    • All decision-making in the forum requires a quorum defined by the presence of two-thirds of the member states and complete consensus.
    • In case a consensus cannot be reached, decisions shall be made by a two-thirds majority of members present and voting.
    • The Council of Foreign Ministers is the chief decision-making body and meets annually to decide on how to implement the OIC’s general policies.
      • They take decisions and resolutions on matters of common interest, review their progress, consider and approve programmes and their budgets, consider specific issues bothering member states and recommend establishing a new organ or committee.
  • Finance:
    • The OIC is financed by the member states proportionate to their national incomes.
      • A member’s voting rights are suspended when their arrears equal or exceed the amount of contributions due from them for the preceding two years.
      • The member is only allowed to vote if the Council of Foreign Ministers is satisfied that the failure is due to conditions beyond the member’s control.
  • Islamic Summit:
    • It is composed of Kings and heads of state, is the supreme authority of the organisation.
    • Convening every three years, it deliberates, takes policy decisions, provides guidance on issues relevant to the organisation and considers issues of concern to the member states.
  • Council of Foreign Ministers:
    • The Council of Foreign Ministers is the chief decision-making body and meets annually to decide on how to implement the OIC’s general policies.
      • They take decisions and resolutions on matters of common interest, review their progress, consider and approve programmes and their budgets, consider specific issues bothering member states and recommend establishing a new organ or committee.
  • Standing Committees:
    • The OIC also has standing committees for cooperation on information and cultural affairs, economic and commercial matters, scientific and technological initiatives and for Jerusalem.

Issues Faced with OIC

  • OIC lacks measures to implement its resolutions, which often remain as weak declarations.
  • In 1981, despite announcement to increase efforts “for the liberation of Jerusalem and the occupied territories” and an economic boycott of Israel, several members, including Indonesia, Egypt and Arab Gulf states, maintained economic ties with Israel.
  • Financial aid to member states suffering from civil war or natural disasters are partially met.
  • The effectiveness of the OIC has also been affected due to wide variety of political orientations among members, from revolutionary Iran to conservative Saudi Arabia. Bilateral disputes of Gulf countries have also affected the effectiveness of organization. Example: Iraq-Kuwait or Iran-Saudi Arabia.

Criticism of the OIC

  • Prioritise Rights of Muslim Minorities:
    • The OIC had become a premise for ‘window dressing’, more interested in the rights of Muslim minorities in places such as Palestine or Myanmar than the human rights violations of its member states.
  • Incompetent at investigating Human Rights Violations:
    • The body lacks power and resources to investigate human rights violations or enforce its decisions through signed treaties and declarations.
  • Centred around Quranic Values:
    • The organisation is largely restricted to arbitrating in conflicts where both parties are Muslims.
    • This is because the organisation is centred around Quranic values, which, it believes, makes it a qualified arbitrator.
  • Failed to Establish a Cooperative Venture:
    • The OIC has failed to establish a cooperative venture among its members, who were either capital-rich and labour-scarce countries or manpower-rich and capital scarce.
    • The organization has not evolved to become a significant player either in international politics or in the area of economic cooperation.

OIC and India

  • India is not a member despite being home to second largest Muslim population in the world. India had expressed its desire to be a member in the OIC during its formation in 1969, But this was bitterly opposed by Pakistan.
  • In 2006, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia during his visit to India remarked, “India should have an observer status in the Organization of the Islamic Conference similar to that held by Russia.” He added it would be “beneficial” if India’s entry was proposed “by a nation like Pakistan.”
  • However, the attempt to puncture the idea came from Pakistan when its Foreign Ministry said any country that wished to acquire observer status with the OIC, “should not be involved in any dispute with a member state.”
  • The Organization itself is a product of the Islamic Summit Conference held at Rabat on September 22-25, 1969. The provocation for that gathering was the desecration of the Al Aqsa mosque (third holiest site in Islam) in Jerusalem. Consequently, India participated in the third session of the Conference, on the afternoon of September 23. Subsequent developments, and the antics of the then President of Pakistan resulted in the forcible exclusion of the Indian delegation from the subsequent sessions of the Conference. No invitations were extended to India in subsequent years and Pakistani diplomacy discovered OIC to be a fertile ground for focused anti-Indian resolutions. To counter these, Indian diplomats interacted with OIC officials to draw attention to the Indian side resulted in some softening of positions.
  • At the 45th session of the Foreign Ministers’ Summit in 2018, Bangladesh, the host, suggested that India, where more than 10% of the world’s Muslims live, should be given Observer status, but Pakistan opposed the proposal.
  • After building close ties with powerful members such as UAE and Saudi Arabia, India has been confident of riding over any statement by the grouping.
    • India has consistently underlined that J&K is an “integral part of India and is a matter strictly internal to India”, and that the OIC has no locus standi on the issue.
  • In 2019, India made its maiden appearance at the OIC Foreign Ministers’ meeting, as a “guest of honour”.
    • This first-time invitation was seen as a diplomatic victory for India, especially at a time of heightened tensions with Pakistan following the Pulwama attack. (Pakistan boycotted the meet)
  • The United Arab Emirates, for instance, conferred the “Order of Zayed”, its highest civilian award on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, more than a week after New Delhi’s moves on Article 370, and declared that Kashmir was India’s internal matter.

India’s Membership of OIC

  • From time to time the individual members of the OIC (Qatar, Iran, etc) have attempted India’s entry in the grouping.
  • A formal place for India in the OIC would add to the collective credibility and bargaining power of the organization.
  • The OIC would be able to leverage India in relation to important issues of the Muslim world -terrorism, radicalization, poverty, etc.
  • India stayed away because of a multiplicity of reasons:
    • It did not want to join an organisation founded on religion.
    • There was the risk that improving bilateral relations with individual member states would come under pressure in a grouping, especially on issues such as Kashmir.
Arguments in favour of India’s membership at the OIC
  • Second largest Muslim Community: Though India is neither a part of the Muslim world nor a Muslim majority state in statistical terms, yet it host the second largest community of Muslims in the world. Countries like Thailand and Russia are observer members, despite having a significant minority Muslim population.
  • West Asian Diaspora: There are also some eight million Indians in West Asia, who contribute to these economies as well as cultural richness.
  • Co-operation in Strategic and economic matters: Apart from a large diaspora, India is the third largest economy in the world and one of the biggest importers of hydrocarbons like gas and oil. West Asia and `India’s growing economic and energy interdependence makes it difficult for the former to ignore the latter.
  • Countering Pakistan: India’s deepening ties with Islamic world could act as a bulwark to prevent Pakistan from using the secretariat and OIC forum for its own propaganda.

Significance of OIC to India

  • The OIC accounts for about 29 per cent of the total membership of the U.N., therefore, is a factor of relevance in multilateral gatherings and does influence the outcome of elections to U.N. bodies, and their decisions.
  • The dependence of India on Gulf countries for Oil and Indian Diaspora in the OIC member states make the grouping vital for India’s interest.
  • OIC also accounts for full membership of the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) which are equally important for India’s interest.
  • Geographically, Muslim countries and societies form the immediate and extended neighbourhood of India in Asia. Contacts with Muslim countries figure prominently in our external relations.
  • Relationships with these countries have a bearing on India’s strategic environment. However, OIC as a collective has never really been united or effective.

Challenges faced by India in OIC

  • OIC’s stance on Jammu and Kashmir: It has been generally supportive of Pakistan’s concerns over Jammu and Kashmir. With regards to this, the OIC has been issuing statements criticizing alleged atrocities and human rights violations in the state.
  • Presence of Pakistan: Pakistan has always objected India’s entry into the group, stating that any country wishing to get observer status should not be involved in any dispute with an OIC member state.
  • Position on Israel: OIC condemns any arbitrary steps by Israel which undermine the international efforts to reach the two-states solution and achieve peace. Though traditionally, India has been a supporter of the two-State solution, its deepening relation with Israel can be a challenge.

OIC and Kashmir Issue

  • The OIC has been generally supportive of Pakistan’s stand on Kashmir.
  • The OIC stresses that as long as the Indo-Pak tension over Kashmir remains unresolved, there is very little room for improvement in the organization’s relations with India. While the OIC advocates the issue of selfdetermination and resolution of Kashmir in accordance with the UN resolutions of 1948 and 1949, India is firm about resolving the issue bilaterally with Pakistan.
  • The final communique adopted at 13th Islamic Summit (Turkey, 2016) of the Heads of State of the OIC Member States called on India to implement the “pending UN Security Council resolutions” on Jammu and Kashmir and expressed concern at the “gross violation” of human rights by the Indian security forces, and affirmed support to the Kashmiri struggle for “self-determination”.
  • India responded by completely rejecting all such references regarding matters internal to India, on which the OIC has no locus standi. Further, India advised the OIC to refrain from making such references in future.

Way Forward

  • The challenge now is to define the policy framework that would energise relations while reflecting presentday imperatives. The aim should be to expand areas of mutually beneficial cooperation and to minimize areas of misperception or divergence of interests.
  • For India to become a full member, special concession has to be invoked as in the case of other Muslim minority states that became OIC members.
  • However, given the current state of relations between India and Pakistan and the sensitivities of managing their own domestic public opinion, OIC members are unlikely to offer India full membership.
  • On the other hand, Observer status does not entail voting rights, and Pakistan will continue to embarrass India by raising the J&K dispute in the OIC even if India had Observer status.
  • India has good reason to be pleased that Pakistan can no longer veto India’s engagement with critical states of the Middle East.
  • For the emerging forces of political moderation and social modernisation in the Middle East, India is a more attractive partner than Pakistan.
  • Therefore, in the given circumstances, the best option would be for India to continue to work with individual members of the OIC to establish friendly relations and deepen bilateral cooperation, and work to negate the designs of Pakistan within the OIC ranks.


  • OIC is a robust platform to further the interests of Muslim world. Hence, India must make endeavour to engage it positively but not by compromising its core interests.
  • India must project the “good will” of Indian Muslims who are tolerant and well integrated with Indian “syncretic and composite culture” at a time when radicalization in Arab world is at its peak. Now it is hoped that with increased stature of India and changed geopolitical realities, OIC too will embrace India ardently.

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