CHINA has, once again, established its peace credentials by brokering an epoch-making deal between the arch rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran after years of strained relations. The two countries have vowed to bury the hatchet and re-establish diplomatic relations under an accord that is being described by diplomats around the world as a harbinger of peace in the conflict-ridden region and a boost to solidarity and unity of the Muslim Ummah.
Saudi Arabia and Iran are two important members of the Islamic world but there are reasons to believe that their rivalry was one of the major reasons behind non-exploitation of the true potential of the representative body of the Muslim world – the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC). In fact, differences between the KSA and Iran, at times, put countries like Pakistan in an awkward position as they had good relations with both of them and could not make clear choices because of the complexity of the issues involved. It was because of all this that Pakistan has, all along, been making endeavours to bring the two countries closer and that is why Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif promptly greeted the development pointing out “this China-mediated deal augurs well for peace, stability and economic development in ME and Muslim world.” He further observed it showed that with collective wisdom, win-win outcomes were possible. Of course, there are big challenges ahead as hostile countries and agencies would try to derail the rapprochement as part of their own vested interests and designs but China has demonstrated immense maturity by brokering an otherwise difficult deal and hopefully it would remain continuously engaged with the two countries to ensure its successful implementation. Already, the groundwork has been done minutely and the accord envisages resumption of diplomatic ties and reopening of their embassies within two months. The agreement also stipulated affirming “the respect for the sovereignty of states and the non-interference in internal affairs of states”, which augurs well if pursued in real life in letter and in spirit. Successful implementation of the accord would be a game-changer in the region with far-reaching implications for the global politics as rivalry of the two countries was being exploited by some countries to their advantage. They were instrumental in dividing the Muslim world on sectarian lines and selling arms and equipment citing security threats including those related to the nuclear programme of Iran. Both the Kingdom and Iran have ambitious economic development programmes and reconciliation would afford an opportunity to them to spend their resources on the uplift of their countries and supporting developmental efforts of other countries. The peace deal is also historic in the sense that so far only the United States was considered to be the leading player as far as mediation efforts were concerned but it has lost its credibility as it openly took sides and even adopted hostile attitudes against parties to a conflict. China never took sides between Saudi Arabia and Iran and instead had good and warm relations with both of them and as a result used its good offices to broker the peace deal. We hope the two countries will remain engaged and agree on a number of confidence building measures to reduce the prevailing trust deficit.