India welcomes ‘milestone’ invitation to OIC conference

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation consists of 57 member states. (AFP file photo)
Updated 28 February 2019

India welcomes ‘milestone’ invitation to OIC conference

  • Attending meeting of OIC foreign ministers will be a first for India
  • India was first invited to attend the Islamic Summit Conference in Rabat, Morocco in 1969, but the invitation was rescinded on the insistence of Pakistan

NEW DELHI: The Indian government has welcomed a “milestone” invitation for it to attend a high-profile meeting of foreign ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in the UAE.

India will be the “guest of honor” at the 46th session of the OIC’s Council of Foreign Ministers to be held in Abu Dhabi on March 1-2.

And New Delhi has described its acceptance back into the OIC fold after nearly 50 years as a significant development in moves to strengthen relations with its Muslim-majority neighbors.

“We see this invitation as the desire of the enlightened leadership of the UAE to go beyond our rapidly growing close bilateral ties and forge a true multifaceted partnership at the multilateral and international level,” said a statement issued by India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). 

This is “a milestone in our comprehensive strategic partnership with the UAE. We also see this invitation as a welcome recognition of the presence of 185 million Muslims in India and of their contribution to its pluralistic ethos, and of India’s contribution to the Islamic world,” added the statement.

India was first invited to attend the Islamic Summit Conference in Rabat, Morocco in 1969, but the invitation was rescinded on the insistence of Pakistan. Since then, the South Asian republic has shared a sour relationship with the OIC and has not, until now, been invited back. 

“The friendly country of India has been named as the guest of honor in view of its great global political stature as well as its time-honored and deeply rooted cultural and historical legacy, and its important Islamic component,” a statement issued in Abu Dhabi announcing the foreign ministers’ meeting said.

The UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan will inaugurate the session in the presence of OIC Secretary-General Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen and representatives of 56 member states and five observer states. 

“This is a very significant development. It is very dramatic and a diplomatic triumph for India and the Indian leadership,” said Talmiz Ahmad, former Indian ambassador to Saudi Arabia and a prominent expert on West Asia. 

“It brings India into the mainstream of the Islamic world. India belongs to this mainstream based on its history, civilization and culture.”

Ahmad told Arab News that “there has been considerable discussion behind the scenes between Indian leaders and diplomats and their counterparts in the major Muslim countries, particularly the UAE and Saudi Arabia. I think this (the OIC invitation) is the result of these efforts. India’s engagement with the OIC will add significance to the conference.

“The message is very clear. This is a very big setback to Pakistan’s attempt to misuse the OIC to criticize India. They have been doing it since the 1990s. Their resolutions have been extremely venomous. Finally, the OIC has realized that this misuse of the important platform should stop,” added the former diplomat.


Hong Kong police warn of ‘live fire’ if they face deadly weapons from protesters

Updated 17 November 2019

Hong Kong police warn of ‘live fire’ if they face deadly weapons from protesters

  • Protests have tremored through the global financial hub since June
  • China has repeatedly warned that it will not tolerate the dissent

HONG KONG: Hong Kong police Monday warned for the first time that they may use “live rounds” after pro-democracy protesters fired arrows and threw petrol bombs at officers at a beseiged university campus, as the crisis engulfing the city veered deeper into danger.
Protests have tremored through the global financial hub since June, with many in the city of 7.5 million people venting fury at eroding freedoms under Chinese rule.
China has repeatedly warned that it will not tolerate the dissent, and there have been concerns that Beijing could send in troops to put an end to the spiralling unrest.
Three protesters have been shot by armed police in the unrelenting months of protests. But all in scuffles as chaotic street clashes played out — and without such warnings being given.
A day of intense clashes, which saw a police officer struck in the leg by an arrow and protesters meet police tear gas with volleys of petrol bombs, intensified as night fell.
Clashes rolled across Kowloon, with the epicenter around the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), where scores of defiant demonstrators set large fires to prevent police from conducting a threatened raid on the campus.
They hunkered down under umbrellas from occasional fire from water cannon and hurled molotov cocktails at an armored police vehicle, leaving it ablaze on a flyover near the campus.
Police declared the campus a “riot” scene — a rioting conviction carries up to 10 years in jail — and blocked exits as spokesman Louis Lau issued a stark warning in a Facebook live broadcast.
“I hereby warn rioters not to use petrol bombs, arrows, cars or any deadly weapons to attack police officers,” he said.
“If they continue such dangerous actions, we would have no choice but to use the minimum force necessary, including live rounds, to fire back.”
Police said they fired at a car late Sunday that had driven at a line of officers near the campus — but the vehicle reversed and escaped.
Protesters at the campus appeared resolute — a twist in tactics by a leaderless movement so far defined by its fluid, unpredictable nature.
“I feel scared. There’s no way out, all I can do is fight to the end,” said one protester joining the barricade in front of the university building.
“We need a base to keep our gear and have some rest at night before another fight in the morning,” another called Kason, 23, told AFP.
On Sunday, activists parried attempts by police to break through into the PolyU campus, firing rocks from a homemade catapult from the university roof, while an AFP reporter saw a team of masked archers — several carrying sports bows — patrolling the campus.
Violence has worsened in recent days, with two men killed in separate incidents linked to the protests this month.
Chinese President Xi Jinping this week issued his most strident comments on the crisis, saying it threatened the “one country, two systems” model under which Hong Kong has been ruled since the 1997 handover from Britain.
Demonstrators last week engineered a “Blossom Everywhere” campaign of blockades and vandalism, which forced the police to draft in prison officers as reinforcements, shut down large chunks of Hong Kong’s train network and close schools and shopping malls.
The movement, characterised by its fluidity and unpredictability, has started to coagulate in fixed locations, showing the protesters’ ability to switch tactics.
The protests started against a now-shelved bill to allow extradition to China but have billowed to encompass wider issues such as perceived police brutality and calls for universal suffrage in the former British colony.
The financial hub has been nudged into a recession by the unrelenting turmoil.
A poster circulating on social media called for the “dawn action” to continue on Monday.
“Get up early, directly target the regime, squeeze the economy to increase pressure,” it said.
The education bureau said schools will remain closed again on Monday.
Earlier on Sunday, dozens of government supporters gathered to clear barricades near the university campus — a sign of the divisions slicing through the city.
Many residents are wearied by the sapping protests. Others support the Chinese-backed city government.
Some applauded a Saturday clean-up by Chinese troops from a garrison of the People’s Liberation Army in Kowloon.
The garrison is usually confined to the barracks under Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, although it can be deployed at the request of the city’s government to help with public order breakdown or natural disasters.
Hong Kong’s government, which presides over a city that enjoys greater freedoms than the mainland, said it did not ask the PLA for help on Saturday.
The choreographed troop movement “has only compounded the impression that Beijing has simply ignored” Hong Kong’s unique political system, said analyst Dixon Sing.