Everyone in Pakistan might be astonished by the Royal Visit to Pakistan. In the times of great economic crisis and domestic political volatility, this tour seems to be a great opportunity for Pakistan to let the world know about its peaceful stature and a great tourism promise. In between all this rush, one man spent all the time travelling to keep the region in harmony and bring two parties to table talks during the heightened tensions in recent times. Imran Khan spent his last 40 hours travelling to Iran then returning and having luncheon with the visiting Royal Family and then again on a flight to Saudi Arabia in the midst of tensions in the Gulf, economic crisis in Pakistan, prospects of a strike and lockdown in the capital city, a session of FATF in the France determining the fate of Pakistan and of course a visit from British Royal family after almost 2 decades to portray a soft image of Pakistan and the highlight the UK-Pakistan bond of friendship.
Arthur S. Meyer has stated,
“The task of the mediator is not an easy one. The sea that he sails is only roughly charted and its changing contours are not clearly discernible. He has no science of navigation, no fund inherited from the experience of others. He is a solitary artist recognizing at most of few guiding stars and depending on his personal powers of divin,ation”
The task is precisely not easy for Khan in mediating between two countries who have not seen the best of their relations since the Iranian revolution. Iran and Saudi Arabia are two Muslim countries with the two different and major sects of Islam being the main reason for conflict between both the countries. The ideological difference is all that is wrong between the all-weather and all the time tense relations between both countries. It won’t be a smooth sail for Prime Minister Khan to bring these both countries to the table for talks and peaceful ceasing of hostilities on different fronts be it in Yemen or on the International political platforms. Substantially bringing Iran and Saudi to one table is practically a hard job and if Imran successfully even brings them to the table would be the biggest achievement let alone a solution to the problems, no one has done it before not your charismatic Putin, the all sublime Obama or the straightforward Trump.
What could be the possible difficulties and obstacles for Imran Khan in being successful as a mediator? When this question is asked the first answer that comes to my mind is how would he succeed when almost all the opposition in Pakistan is opposing the only second opportunity in the troubled history of Pakistan when Pakistan has the ball in its court and it can play a major diplomatic role to alter the regional order. The third-party intervention in derailing this process for me is yet out of the question when Pakistanis themselves wish failure to the talks just because the opposition in Pakistan do not want to see him as the Peacemaker.
Historically there are not many examples which one could analyse for how international mediation went on to prevent wars. Even direct talks couldn’t prevent war in the example of British Premier Neville Chamberlain who went to Berlin to talk Hitler out of a possible war of expansion in the Europe, which failed miserably despite him claiming that he has achieved the peace in their time. Iran and Saudi have not seen a direct conflict historically despite them being in conflict on ideological bases for a very long time. Although conflict may not be of any benefit to both the countries it is hard to say any mediation is possible of being successful without both the countries first taste the conflict which eventually would lead them to talks perhaps without a mediator.
Imran Khan has taken up a great responsibility upon his shoulders at times when his country needs all of his attention, the need of the time is a peaceful resolution to all hostilities before it converts into a full-blown confrontation. A war between Iran and Saudi would not let Pakistan escape the hazard zone of not getting the aftereffects.
Huzaifa Baloch is a student of International Relations and has been writing for Young Diplomats Pakistan for the past two years. All views here belong to him. He can be reached at @HuzaifaBaloch, [email protected]