In a significant development in the wake of the Pulwama terror attack, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has for the first time invited India as the ‘guest of honour’ to the 46th session of its Council of Foreign Ministers to be held in Abu Dhabi (UAE) on 1-2 March. The invite to address the inaugural plenary of the OIC meet has been received by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

The OIC is a forum that has been invariably misused by Pakistan to slam India on the Jammu and Kashmir issue. India, which is not a member of the body, has always rejected its criticism by the OIC by pointing out that the bloc had no locus standi on its internal matters.

The OIC is the second largest inter-governmental organisation after the UN with a membership of 57 states spread over four continents and a population of more than 1.8 billion.

The Ministry of External Affairs said Swaraj had been personally invited by her UAE counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan to address the inaugural plenary of the OIC meet.

Thanking the UAE leadership, the ministry said: ‘”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 multi-faceted partnership at the multilateral and international level.”

It said India also saw this invitation as a milestone in its 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,” said the ministry said.

In her address at the meeting, Swaraj is expected to highlight the pluralistic character of the Indian society in which the minorities continued to play a critical role in the nation’s overall development.

She is also likely to speak about Pakistan’s continued support to cross-border terrorism in India by highlighting Islamabad’s involvement in various terror attacks in India, including last week’s Pulwama attack.