UPSC MAINS 2019 : Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) report to Xinjiang on Uighurs

Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) report to Xinjiang on Uighurs

Topic : Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) report to Xinjiang on Uighurs 

Topic in Syllabus: General Studies Paper 2: International Affairs



Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) report to Xinjiang on Uighurs

In an epochal development, India became the ‘Guest of Honour’ at the 46th session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) held in Abu Dhabi in March.


About OIC

  • The OIC, represents 57 member states and a population of about 1.8 billion people.
  • It is the world’s second-largest intergovernmental organisation after the UN
  • It is committed to protect the interests of the Muslim world.
  • It routinely expresses solidarity with Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Bosnia, as well as with the peoples of the Turkish Cypriot state, Kosovo and Jammu and Kashmir


Who are Uighurs?

  • The Uighurs are a minority Turkic ethnic group originating from and culturally affiliated with the general region of Central and East Asia.
  • The Uighurs have been recognized as native to only one region, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China


Indian and OIC:

  • The OIC offers a platform for Pakistan and India to play out their respective positions on a number of thorny issues and in the process involve the forum for de-escalation purposes.
  • Both India and the member countries of OIC have shared an interest in blunting the edge of religious extremism and terrorism.
  • Equally important has been the region’s growing economic and energy interdependence with India, which is emerging as the world’s third-largest economy and one of the biggest hydrocarbon importers and labour exporters.
  • As the region’s geopolitics enters a turbulent period, the potential for India as a military partner is also coming into view


Reasons for the ignorance

  • The strong personal and state-to-state ties built by the Indian government with important OIC states, especially the UAE.
  • However, one of the resolutions did refer to Kashmir and expressed concern at the situation of Muslims in India.


OIC’s report on China’s Xinjiang province:

  • The main Abu Dhabi declaration, like the Dhaka Declaration, made no reference to China or its Muslim minorities.
  • It is fascinating to come across the resolution passed at Abu Dhabi which chose to commend the efforts of the People’s Republic of China in providing care to its Muslim citizens.
  • China has defended its policies and claimed that it’s so-called ‘internment camps’ are actually vocational centres meant to “to educate and save the local people of Xinjiang who were influenced by religious extremism”.


Reasons for favouring China:

  • China is a major power
  • It is a permanent member of the UN Security Council
  • It has a large market for hydrocarbons and a source of arms and investment
  • Moreover, China refrains from preaching to others about human rights or systems of governance.
  • As China’s continued import of oil from Iran suggests, countries under U.S. pressure and sanctions often turn to China for relief. In return, they do their best to guard China’s interests at the OIC.


Turning a Nelson’s eye

  • On the other hand, it has turned a Nelson’s eye to the human rights violations committed by its own members, like the actions of the Pakistani state in Balochistan.
  • However, the organisation’s record on China’s Xinjiang province, which is in the news on account of alleged violations of human rights and curbs on religious freedom of Uighurs and other Muslim ethnic groups, is far more curious.
  • The main Abu Dhabi declaration, like the Dhaka Declaration, made no reference to China or its Muslim minorities. Further, it is intriguing that one resolution passed at Abu Dhabi chose to “commend the efforts of the People’s Republic of China in providing care to its Muslim citizens”.
  • This would have come as a huge relief to Beijing, especially after a review held by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 2018 had claimed, citing credible reports, that Beijing had turned the Uighur autonomous region into “something that resembles a massive internment camp”.

Anodyne appeals:

  • All nations have a right to reject external interference in their internal affairs.
  • However, while the OIC remains critical of India, it is wary of treading on China’s toes. Various OIC resolutions have, in the past, referred only superficially to the matter.
  • For instance, the Islamabad OIC meeting in May 2007 made only an anodyne request to its Secretary General “to make contact with the Government of China” on the matter “and to subsequently report on these consultations”.
  • The Baku OIC resolution of June 2006 made an appeal “to give special attention to the conditions of Muslims in East Turkistan (Xinjiang) and to examine the possibility of working out a formula for cooperation with the Chinese Government”.

Way ahead

  • With better engagement with the Arab countries, India should aim to expand areas of mutually beneficial cooperation, minimize areas of misperception or divergence of interests, and maximize advantages that may accrue to India.
  • 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 modernization in the Middle East, India is a more attractive partner than Pakistan. However, India has to carefully balance its strategy towards the Islamic world by openly form stronger and better diplomatic ties with an overtly religion-based organization.
  • But here is a paradox: In embracing OIC, an overtly religion-based organization, Delhi reduces the salience of faith in India’s strategy towards the Islamic world.



  • However, OIC countries, under the influence of Pakistan, support resolutions against India despite having excellent bilateral ties with the country.
  • Recent developments a call from Pakistan’s Minister for Religious Affairs Pir Noor-ul-HaqQadri urging China to lift restrictions on Muslims in Xinjiang and Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan chief Sirajul Haq’s raising concerns about the Uighur issue with the Chinese Ambassador — must, hence, have come as deep embarrassment to the OIC.


Sample Question:

Critically analyse the importance of OIC in India’s interest.(250 words)



Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) report to Xinjiang on Uighurs infographic