Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Friday that he would not participate in the Council of Foreign Ministers' meet of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Abu Dhabi, citing India's presence at the same.
"I will not attend Council of Foreign Ministers as a matter of principle for (them) having extended invitation as a Guest of Honour to Sushma Swaraj," Shah Mahmood Qureshi was quoted as saying while addressing a joint session of parliament, adding that lower-ranking officials would attend to represent the nation's interests.
The delegation will also staunchly oppose any move to grant observer status to India at the OIC.
Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi: I will not attend Council of Foreign Ministers as a matter of principle for having extended invitation as a Guest of Honour to Sushma Swaraj. (file pic) pic.twitter.com/eRIiSVkox7— ANI (@ANI) March 1, 2019
Reiterating his protest against the OIC's decision to invite to Swaraj to attend the meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers in Abu Dhabi, Qureshi said he will not attend the session due to the inter-governmental organisation's failure to rescind the invitation to his Indian counterpart.
Mentioning that the "UAE has always helped Pakistan in difficult times", Qureshi noted with regret that despite Pakistan's protest, the OIC's invitation to Swaraj was not rescinded.
"There was no consultation over the OIC invitation to Indian foreign minister. India is neither a member nor an observer of the OIC," Qureshi pointed out, adding that he sent two letters - the latest by Friday - to the UAE calling upon the body to withdraw its invitation to the Indian foreign minister.
Qureshi informed Parliament that he requested the OIC to either rescind the invitation or postpone the session in view of the prevailing situation, neither of which was done.
"I have [therefore] decided not to attend OIC Council of Foreign Ministers meeting in Abu Dhabi," the foreign minister announced.
Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, the Guest of Honour, has reached Abu Dhabi to attend the meet where she is expected to raise the issue of terrorism. This follows a de-escalation in tension between India and Pakistan after Pakistan declared that they would release IAF pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman as a peace gesture.
Recognising India’s engagement with the Islamic world— Raveesh Kumar (@MEAIndia) February 28, 2019
EAM @SushmaSwaraj arrives in #AbuDhabi for the Ministerial Meeting of @OIC_OCI. India has been invited by HH Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Foreign Minister of UAE as the 'Guest of Honour'. pic.twitter.com/wzQbVOGczN
Pakistan, a member of the OIC, had tried to get Swaraj 'disinvited' from the Abu Dhabi meet following India's air strike on the terror camp in Pakistan.
Earlier Qureshi had said that he would boycott the meeting if Swaraj participates.
But, on Thursday, he said the OIC is "our home" so he will go there, but will not hold talks with Swaraj.
The OIC had disinvited India from its conference in 1969 in Morocco at Pakistan's behest.
The OIC has usually been supportive of Pakistan and often sided with Islamabad on the Kashmir issue.
The MEA said Foreign Minister of United Arab Emirates Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan invited Swaraj as the 'guest of honour' to address the inaugural plenary and that India was happy to accept the invitation.
(With PTI inputs)