A Split in the Islamic World: OIC versus Mahathir’s New Forum?
In tangible terms not much may have been achieved but what will be named as the Perdana Dialogue from 2020 but is the first step questioning the OIC led by Saudi Arabia.
Leaders of Pakistan, Malaysia and Turkey during a trilateral meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session came up with the idea of an alternate summit of Islamic nations to be held in Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad, Pakistan PM Imran Khan and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed upon forming a joint forum with the first meeting scheduled in December.
The aim was to form a Muslim bloc as an alternative to Saudi Arabia led the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
Malaysia launched the summit on Dec. 18-20, 2019 in Kuala Lumpur. The agenda covered regional issues including trade, security, technology and internet governance.
Pakistan which has been getting valuable support from Turkey and Malaysia concerning the stand-off with India on numerous issues including the repealing of Article 370 and now the rabble-rousing over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) supported the idea which was driven by PM Mahathir and President Erdogan who had their own agenda with reference to Saudi domination.
Pakistan, however, backed out of the meeting after pressure from Saudi Arabia even after Prime Minister Imran Khan had on Nov 29 confirmed his participation in the summit when Malaysian Prime Minister’s Special Envoy and Deputy Foreign Minister Marzuki Bin Haji Yahya met him to deliver a formal invitation for the event.
Saudi Arabia’s resistance was also evident when on a call with Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohammad, Saudi King Salman suggested that such issues concerning the Islamic World should be discussed through the OIC.
Riyadh exerted pressure on Pakistan amongst other countries as Indonesia to back off from the Forum in Kuala Lumpur.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan openly said that Pakistan decided to stay away from the Kuala Lumpur summit because of Saudi Arabia’s threats of economic sanctions.
“Unfortunately, we see that Saudi Arabia pressures Pakistan. Now, there are promises that the country has given to Pakistan regarding the central bank. However, more than that, there are four million Pakistanis working in Saudi Arabia. They [threaten by saying that they] would send [Pakistanis] back and re-employ Bangladeshis instead,” Erdogan was quoted as saying in an interview with the Daily Sabah.
While a number of other heads of states also stayed away Iran and Qatar were represented by the Presidents or heads of state thus signifying a gain for the Malaysia and Turkey led forum.
Never the less the Perdana Dialogue as the forum will be known from 2020 poses an alternative to the Islamic world vision represented by non Arab states as Malaysia and Turkey which have economic independence as well as an alternate vision of Islam.
In tangible terms not much may have been achieved but the Perdana Dialogue may be the first step in questioning the existing order of Islamic states led by Saudi Arabia.
While the new forum may not have the heft of the Saudi led OIC, Riyadh was concerned enough to dissuade key partners as Pakistan from attending the same..