Prime Minister Imran Khan is on another, even bigger mission, this time to diffuse rising tensions in the Middle Ease and mediate between regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia.
On the first leg of this journey, the prime minister visited Tehran to hold talks with the Iranian leadership urging them to avoid conflict and hold dialogue to diffuse tensions. He maintained that war should never happen between Iran and Saudi Arabia while Pakistan is trying to facilitate talks for peace.
Imran Khan has emphasised that his visit to the two countries is Pakistan’s own initiative using its friendly relations with both countries to bring them closer. Moreover, the Pakistani leader mentioned that US President Donald Trump had approached him for facilitating dialogue even between USA and Iran.
Frictions between Iran and Saudi Arabia spiked after an attack last month on Saudi oil facilities. The Saudis have blamed Iran for the attacks. Subsequently, an Iranian oil tanker was attacked on October 11 near the Saudi port of Jeddah raising fears of further escalation.
There sits a massive task before Imran Khan but he has been encouraged by his Iran visit. He will depart for Saudi Arabia on the second leg of his peace mission with a positive frame of mind hoping that the two countries can iron out their differences.
Even the Saudis want to avoid a full-scale conflict with Iran. Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman has warned that war would shatter the global economy and raise oil prices to unimaginable levels. Iran has signaled interest that it was not averse to clearing up differences and is ready to negotiate with Saudi Arabia with or without mediation.
Pakistan has strong ties with Saudi Arabia and friendly relations with Iran. It can certainly use its leverage to facilitate dialogue. The geopolitical environment favours Pakistan’s initiative for mediation to end the massive mistrust between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Imran Khan realised the gravity of the situation and pushed the common agenda to bring forward his peace; by warning the leaders of both countries about the consequences of war, not just for the region but also the world at large.
Pakistan’s second step should be bringing both nations to the table by offering to host a summit – preferably in Islamabad – and renew good offices to both countries. If Imran succeeds in avoiding the conflict between Iran and Saudia, it will not only bring regional peace but also exalt his status as a world leader.