Pakistani Prime Minister Khan’s efforts to mediate a detente in the Iranian-Saudi Cold War are proof of his country’s rising prestige as the global pivot state and indicate just how indispensable Islamabad is for facilitating regional peace, but this noble initiative would be greatly aided if it was eventually coordinated with Russian President Putin’s own efforts in this respect so that both leaders could maximally leverage their unique diplomatic credentials in pursuit of an historic regional peace.
Most of the international media has been too distracted by the latest fast-moving developments in Syria or Putin’s trip to the Gulf to pay attention to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s (PMIK) efforts to mediate a detente in the Iranian-Saudi Cold War by his visits to both of them, but this initiative is proof of his country’s rising prestige as the global pivot state and indicate just how indispensable Islamabad is for facilitating regional peace. The South Asian state is nowadays on excellent terms with both rival nations, especially after sorting out its complicated relationship with Iran earlier this year, so it’s uniquely positioned to act as a trusted intermediary in resolving their long-standing security dilemma with one another. That’s obviously a lot easier said than done, but the initiative is nevertheless a positive one that deserves to be respected.
President Putin, for example, is cautious about the prospects for success. Speaking to Arab media on the eve of his departure to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and by no means referring to PMIK in particular, he responded to a question about Russia’s theoretical role as a regional mediator by remarking that, “The role of mediator is not a rewarding one. I believe that our partners in Iran and Saudi Arabia do not need any mediation. Since we maintain very friendly relations with all the countries in the region, including Iran and the Arab states, such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, we could certainly help relay some messages between the parties, so they could hear each other’s position. But since I personally know the leaders of these countries, I am perfectly sure that they have no need for any advice or mediation. What you can do is maintain a friendly conversation with them and present some ideas from a friend’s perspective. I am convinced that as highly intelligent people they listen and analyse everything they hear. From this point of view, yes, we could play a positive role in the process, to some extent.”
That doesn’t demean PMIK’s efforts, though, since he’s basically doing exactly what Putin said he would do if offered the opportunity. Rather, the Russian leader’s statement is a frank acknowledgement of the difficulty inherent to PMIK’s noble task, which is to bring about a pragmatic convergence of interests via mutual compromises between two — for lack of a better description — “stubborn” Great Powers who firmly believe in the virtue of their international positions and are seemingly unwilling to backtrack on them. Even so, Putin also said in his interview that “without dialogue, you cannot solve any problem”, and it’s precisely this indirect dialogue-building activity that PMIK is passionately engaged in. Even though the Pakistani leader offered to host Iranian-Saudi peace talks, that probably won’t happen anytime in the near future.
Instead, it’s much more likely that his diplomatic skills can be put to use in finding some common ground between the Saudi and Iranian positions on Yemen, which is misportrayed as a proxy war between the two by the Mainstream Media despite Tehran only providing political support (alongside some suspected low-level military aid) to the Ansarullah, the latter of whom are fighting for their own domestic political reasons and aren’t the “Iranian puppets” that they’re accused of being. That said, Iran proactively shared its envisaged peace plan for Yemen with PMIK, which the Pakistani leader is expected to discuss with his Saudi counterparts. There’s no guarantee that it’ll be accepted, but the proposals for a “ceasefire, humanitarian assistance, intra-Yemeni dialogue, and an inclusive government for 2.5 years that could be extended beyond that period” are all constructive.
The question on many observers minds might naturally be why Pakistan is doing any of this in the first place, and the answer is that it acutely understands how disputes can spiral out of control and endanger the whole world as seen by PMIK’s historic speech at the UN General Assembly last month about precisely that scenario in reference to the ongoing Kashmir Crisis. Furthermore, Pakistan still believes that the international Muslim community (“Ummah”) is capable of bridging its many differences and emerging stronger as a result, hence the immense effort invested in theser latest mediation activities, and it hopes that this outcome could improve its prestige and subsequently result in its geostrategic significance as the global pivot state being better appreciated by all of its partners. Not only could more much-needed investment follow, but also more vocal support on Kashmir, too.
PMIK certainly has his work cut out for him, but his mediation initiative might prospectively bear fruit with time, especially if he undertakes such missions more regularly in the event that even a modicum of progress is made during the current one. While a lot can be said about the role that Russia can play in this respect as a totally neutral extra-regional partner unaffected by the Ummah’s intra-community geopolitical struggle, Moscow lacks the decades-long history of closely working with both rival states and therefore doesn’t have the intrinsic knowledge about them that Pakistan has. Having said that, it would certainly be welcomed if Pakistan and Russia coordinated their peacemaking efforts, which would allow each of them to maximally leverage their diplomatic credentials and thus complement one another’s attempts to broker an historic regional peace.
By Andrew Korybko
Source: One World