Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Can Imran Khan mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia?

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Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan met with King Salman on Wednesday as part of his first state visit overseas.

A part of the talks is said to have been about the Saudi-Iranian relations and about the possibility of opening dialogue between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Imran Khan’s early weeks in power were spent giving grand statements on how Pakistan would be the mediator between Saudi Arabia and Iran. He accepted President Rouhani’s invitation to travel to Tehran, and made high profile meetings with the Iranian Foreign Minister, Javed Zarif and the Iranian Ambassador.

One thing does separate Khan from his predecessors; he is making public and bold statements in favour of Iran. Even though he has not been able to do away with the Saudi first approach, he could be in a good position to convince the Saudis that it is not a zero-sum game.

Given Saudi-Iranian tensions and an outright battle to control the Middle East, there is very little Imran Khan can do to solve this.

Previously, the Saudi Foreign Minister had out right dismissed the need for Pakistan to mediate with Iran. At the same time rather than fix the Iran-Saudi mess, Khan’s main concern should be to alleviate the suffering of Pakistani workers in Saudi Arabia. Khan made no mention of this during his trip.

It is for this reason Saudi Arabia has always treated Pakistani politicians with contempt – WikiLeaks proved that the Saudi leadership preferred military rule in Pakistan as a better option to corrupt and weak politicians.

Away from the covert cable leaks, senior Saudi princes such as Prince Turki bin Faisal have been clear in mocking Pakistani politicians, and suggesting that if they did their jobs properly the Army would not intervene in the first place.

On his first trip to Saudi Arabia, Imran Khan has definitely made an impact and invited them to join Pakistan’s flagship economic project, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The Saudi press were full of praise for Khan and his reenergising of the strategic relationship.

It is far too early to make a judgement on how Khan shall deal with Saudi Arabia, but one thing is for sure, Saudi Arabia will remain a major force in every aspect of Pakistani affairs.

This was best summed up by Imran Khan himself on his first official visit, “anyone who comes to power in Pakistan will visit Saudi Arabia first”.

It seems from Khan’s first overseas trip, at least for now – Pakistan will continue its ‘Saudi First’ policy.

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1 Comment

  1. Sadaf

    September 25, 2018 at 4:57 pm

    You distorted his statement and tried to spread conflict.. He said he will visit Saudi Arabia first because of Makkah and Madinah. Actually, he gave a very diplomatic answer to appease his paranoid friends in Saudi Arabia and at the same time; reconcile with his neighbour Iran. He’s treading in the right direction. In Asha Allah may Allah help him in this noble effort of resolving conflicts between embittered neighbour’s KSA ans iran

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