A top leader in the India-held Kashmir (IHK) has paid tribute to Turkey as one of the strongest supporters of the Kashmiri people's right to self-determination, urging the umbrella Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to play a stronger role in the Kashmiri struggle.
"Probably Turkey is the only member of the OIC who make it absolutely sure that whenever there is a meet on Kashmir their delegation is present and the highest level," Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the chairman of the All Parties Hurriyet Conference (APHC), told Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview to be published in full later.
"If it is a foreign minister, their foreign minister will come; if it is a head of state, their head of state will come," he added.
OIC is an internal organization consisting of 57 member states that is regarded as the "collective voice of the Muslim World."
It strives to "safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony."
OIC considers IHK to be an occupied territory and has a special contact group to help in solving the Kashmir dispute.
Turkey is one of the founders of the group on Kashmir.
Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full.
The two countries have fought three full-fledged wars -- in 1948, 1965 and 1971 -- since partition in 1947, two of which were fought over Kashmir.
Since 1989, Kashmiri resistance groups in IHK have been fighting for independence or unification with neighboring Pakistan.
More than 70,000 people have reportedly been killed in the conflict so far.
Farooq insisted that Turkey was one of the countries that are most unequivocal in their support for the Kashmiri cause.
"We have seen over the years that when you are outside the forum of OIC then every country has its own bilateral relations and process of dealing with India," he noted.
"But Turkey is one of the very few countries who are very ardent supporters of self-determination for the people of Kashmir," asserted the leader of the APHC, the separatist political amalgamate.
Farooq described the OIC as the only major international organization that wholeheartedly supported the Kashmiri struggle for self-determination.
He, however, criticized the umbrella group for taking good decisions and passing resolutions in meetings and conferences, but failing to make an impact on the ground.
"I think the OIC has to play a very important role and I think it has not really served the purpose for which it was created," Farooq argued.
"We see that the biggest dilemma with the OIC is that when they are in a forum they take decisions but when they are outside the forum they are guided by their own country’s interests," he added.
Farooq said the OIC has been unable to open channels of communication with India.
He claimed that India had repeatedly denied the OIC fact-finding team on Kashmir permission to enter Kashmir.
The fact-finding team, he said, was formed three years ago by the OIC to visit both sides of Kashmir and see what was going on, but never got a visa to enter IHK.
"I was informed yesterday by the office in Islamabad that India has not given them visas to visit Kashmir this time as well," said the Kashmiri separatist.
"So in this situation it becomes difficult for the OIC to operate because there are no official channels open between the OIC and the India," he added, recognizing the limitations of OIC.
"But I must say that they (OIC) have to find a way to interact with India," Farooq said.
"They have no channels and then it boils down to bilateral relations between India and particular countries of the OIC and in that we have found that there is no consistency of policy," he noted.
"It keeps on changing according to their own bilateral relations and interests."