The Muslim World and China

Published: 07:58 PM, 5 Apr, 2022
The Muslim World and China
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The Organization of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) is the largest International Government Organization after the United Nations. It has 57 member countries with majority Muslim populations that account for around 1.9 Billion people on the planet. These 57 countries are key figures in International diplomacy and hold the power over critical resources at a global level. This year, on the 48th Session of OIC, Pakistan was honoured with holding the Council of Foreign Ministers and the present Government of Pakistan made sure that the event was like no other. A wide range of International affairs was brought to light and principle stance and diplomacy were discussed and most significantly, as a special effort from Pakistan, Mr Wang Yi, the Chinese Foreign Minister became the first member of the Chinese Government to ever set foot in an OIC session. It was a momentous development and baffled geopolitical analysts across the world with far-reaching implications.

China is heavily engaged with the Muslim world. China has already investing a total of 400 Billion Dollars in 600 different projects in 50 Muslim countries. These numbers themselves speak volumes about what is to come in world foreign policy. China believes in mutual and resourceful development. These projects are building the infrastructure of many Muslim countries that have been plagued by sanctions, war or economic degradation. The Muslim world is looking toward China for development and that is the idea that helped Pakistan, being the host of OIC, this year, invited and included the Chinese Foreign Minister in the session. It was a prudent and historical move that was appreciated by Member countries as well as China. It was another fruit of the time-tested friendship between China and Pakistan. No wonder, Mr Wang Yi was conducted through the whole session by Foreign Minister for Pakistan Shah Mehmood Qureshi.  Pakistan is improved on its role as an ally of China to becoming a doorway to 57 other countries. The event is truly an achievement par excellence.

The 48th Session was not all meet and greet but was conducted with seriousness and decisions that have far-reaching results. The House opened with discussions on the De-dollarization of trade and commerce. Saudia Arabia and China were in talks to conduct their mutual trade, particularly in the oil and gas sector in the Yuan. The same negotiations were seen between foreign ministers of Iran, where China is already in the process of investing 60 Billion Dollar plus in infrastructure. China utilized the august forum of the OIC Council to promote the image of a multi-polar world. The West is now a distant ally which is not reliable in the long run. China also reinforced its position to work with the Muslim world and how it has achieved it through the provision of 1.5 Billion doses of Covid vaccine to Muslim countries for free during the pandemic. There was also much talk about recovering from the pandemic and how world prices are increasing at an alarming rate which needs mitigation through cooperation.

The Russia-Ukraine crisis took centre stage at the OIC session. The Chinese Foreign Minister spoke clearly against the Western World and the view was accepted by the members. The actions of the European Union and the NATO alliance were described as a counter to the norms of democracy in International relations. The Ukraine crisis was hatched by NATO when they schemed the installation of military sites in Kyiv. All countries agreed on the continuation of peace talks and negotiations between Russia and Ukraine and mutually rejected the viewpoint adopted by the Americans and European Union. Various countries gave proposals for countering the aftershocks of the war. The humanitarian crisis that is to follow and the rise in prices of oil, gas and food items. The cooperation of the OIC members will be critical in forming a formidable alliance that is independent of Western influence.

Afghanistan was also deliberated upon. Pakistan once again took the stage in fighting the case for Kabul. The Afghan people have been gripped by a worst-case scenario after the ouster of Western forces. The economy is collapsing and there is a dire shortage of basic facilities. The Chinese Government has come forward in vowing to work with the Taliban Government. Humanitarian aid is on its way. Pakistan presented the proposal for the creation of a Trust Fund where OIC member countries can contribute, and the funds will be used to supply aid, food, and medical supplies to the poorest sections of the Afghan people. The OIC members have not yet recognized the Taliban as a legitimate Government but it’s a fresh start through the OIC forum.

Palestine and Kashmir were also part of the agenda. China vividly reflected the will of the people of Pakistan by signalling out the illegal Indian actions in Occupied Kashmir. Pakistan also highlighted the plight of the Kashmiris fighting for freedom. Other countries joined in and reflected the wishes of the people suffering under the yoke of the Indian Government. Even when Mr Wang Yi is set to visit Delhi after the OIC session, he did not refrain from commenting on the status of Kashmir and offering due support. Similarly, the Chinese Foreign Minister upheld the idea of a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine. As a guest member, it was a remarkable feat to have supported Palestine which is the stance of Pakistan on the matter, it is pertinent to mention that Gulf countries like UAE and Bahrain have normalized relations with Israel, which is contrary to the idea of Muslim Umma and tragic history of Palestine. But China, even in the presence of such Muslim countries, chose to support the cause of Palestine. It is a moment of soul-searching for many Muslim Governments.

Pakistan has played an influential role in the inclusion of the Chinese Government in the OIC and has paved the way for future cooperation. China is transforming the face of global politics. The model of Chinese expansion is of mutual growth and economic well-being. First, it was the Middle East and now it is almost all Muslim nations that are lined up to co-operate with China. The Muslim world can be instrumental in changing the power centre of the world together with Chinese influence. While Americans have no inclusion in the OIC and are facing a downward spiral in the Muslim world, especially after the disaster in Afghanistan. The Muslim world knows that Washington has proved to be an unreliable ally. As the NATO countries are planning sanctions and actions against Russia, the OIC reverberated the inclusion of both parties in dialogue. Turkish Foreign Minister announced the session of dialogue between Russia and Ukraine Government in Istanbul. All this was being done without any intervention from Western nations nor the United Nations. The 48th session of OIC was one of its kind. For the very first time, the Muslim world is deliberately moving closer to China and it is happening through the active involvement of Pakistan. This will open new doors in International co-operation and signifies the shifting of power from the West to Asia. These are no doubt uncharted waters.

Categories : Opinion
Imtiaz Rafi Butt

The Writer is Chairman of Jinnah Rafi Foundation.