In a significant move, India has been invited to the inaugural plenary of the foreign ministers' conclave of the OIC, a powerful grouping of Muslim majority nations, and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will attend it in Abu Dhabi next month as the 'guest of honour'.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) called the invitation 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.
Official sources said it was for the first time, India has been invited to an Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) meeting as guest of honour. The 46th Session of the OIC's Council of Foreign Ministers will be held in Abu Dhabi from March 1 to 2.
The invitation to India by the OIC comes at a time when India has been mounting diplomatic offensive against Pakistan to isolate it internationally following the Pulwama terror attack in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed.
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.
"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," the MEA said in a release.
"We see this invitation as 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," it said.
India is, therefore, happy to accept the invitation and thanked the leadership of the UAE for it, the ministry said.
Last year, Bangladesh proposed restructuring of the charter of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to pave way for the inclusion of non-Muslim countries like India as an "observer state" of the 50-year old grouping.