New Delhi, Dec. 25: Bosnia appears to have spurned Pakistan, which was actively wooing it in the hope of drawing a parallel between the plight of Muslims there and in Kashmir.
Bosnia, trying to find similarities with secular India and get rid of its Islamic tag, made its intentions clear to the Indian team that visited Sarajevo last week.
The team was in Sarajevo to start the first ever foreign office consultation between the countries. The Bosnian leadership assured the Indians that it is not Pakistan but multi-ethnic and religious India it wants to draw inspiration from to establish secular credentials.
It is after years of hedging that India finally started a serious engagement with Bosnia, a leading member of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC). It is also a country whose cause Pakistan has been desperately trying to showcase before the international community to turn the world’s focus on Kashmir.
The first step was taken last week when a team of senior Indian foreign ministry officials — led by Shashank, secretary (Europe, Africa and Americas) — landed in Bosnia.
The meeting on December 19 and 20 enabled the two sides to set up a mechanism for regular foreign office consultations between the two countries.
Bosnia-Herzegovina, as the country is officially known, has three major ethnic groups: Muslims, Serbs and Croats. Since its emergence on the international stage in the late 1990s after years of a bloody civil war and frequent reports of ethnic cleansing, Bosnia has become somewhat of a showpiece for many Islamic countries.
Many of these countries wanted to use Bosnia as an example to highlight the plight of Muslims in other parts of the world. So it was natural for Bosnia to play a prominent role in the OIC.
Pakistan, which considers this outfit of Islamic nations its pocketborough, actively wooed Bosnia for years to try and draw a parallel with the plight of Muslims there and in Kashmir. This was possible when Bosnia was ruled by Islamic hardliners who wanted the Muslim world’s support.
Things are different now with the Bosnian National Party, led by President Mirko Saravic, in power. The country is trying to rid itself of its Islamic tag as it realises that it must join the international mainstream to survive and prosper.
The Bosnian leadership feels that this can be best achieved by integrating with the rest of Europe.
India, waiting in the wings for years, sees this as the right time to engage with Bosnia for the change in governance has brought about other changes in the country.
UN peacekeepers and Nato forces are now withdrawing from Bosnia to be soon replaced by security personnel from Europe. This, observers believe, would be the first step towards Bosnia’s integration with Europe.
Over the past few years, Bosnia had become an important transit point for al Qaida and other terrorist groups. The country’s leadership, however, has joined the US-led international coalition against global terror. India believes it would be able to share information with Bosnia that might help it in fighting terror in its region.
The two countries are also keen on trade and economic cooperation. During the Indian team’s visit, discussions were held with leading Bosnian business groups. In a few months from now, a trade team from Delhi is expected to visit Bosnia to put in place a system for regular business interaction.