Saudi Arabia and Iran need to show the same level of political maturity as Pakistan

Published: January 19, 2016
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Saudi Arabia should reconsider its decision and should restore its ties with Iran.

Saudi Arabia’s decision to severe its diplomatic ties with Iran were ill timed, especially because the world is witnessing a growing escalation of conflict in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Instead of working closely on solving the crisis in the Middle East, they have only managed to strengthen the hands of all those forces that don’t want to see peace in the region.

Furthermore, this will embolden terror outfits such as ISIS, who will readily take advantage in the already febrile region. With the recent detente between the United States and Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iran could have grabbed the opportunity to work closely in solving the Middle East crisis. Unfortunately, it is a classic case of lost opportunities.

It is to the credit of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy due to which Iran has agreed to freeze its nuclear programme for another 15 years, on the condition that the United States agrees to lift the economic sanctions against it. According to The Economist, Iran has already displayed intentions of not pursuing its nuclear programme by decommissioning its enrichment centrifuges, removing the core of its heavy water reactor in Arak and shipping out most of its low enriched uranium stockpile to Russia and other countries.

In view of the unequivocal commitment shown by Iran, the US and European countries have agreed to release the frozen assets of over $100 billion, which will help Iran to rebuild its suffering economy. The lifting of sanctions will help Iran to export oil and natural gas, as the US had laid an embargo on such exports. Iran had suffered a double whammy as a result of an oil and gas embargo with the falling prices of oil below $30 a barrel.

It is for this reason that Iran’s Supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose antipathy to the US is well-known, gave his nod for talks with the United States in an effort to resuscitate the economy. More importantly, the lifting of sanctions presents enormous opportunities for leading international businesses to invest in Iran. All these moves will help Iran reintegrate with the global economy and, with a young and educated population demographic, Iran has enormous possibilities of becoming an economic power in the next five to 10 years.

It is of utmost importance that Saudi Arabia reconsiders its decision and restores its ties with Iran, but this can only be done if both countries agree to stop meddling in Syria, Yemen and Iraq. Iran, on its part, should not extend financial help and stop supplying arms to Hezbollah, the Houthis and other Shia groups.

One of the reasons why organisations such as ISIS gained advantage was the conflict between the Shias and Sunnis. While Saudi Arabia indirectly funded organisations fighting the Shia government in Iraq, Iran, on the other hand, was supporting militants engaged in fighting Sunni groups in Iraq and Yemen. Iran was openly supporting Bashar al Assad’s government in Syria, whose repressive policies have resulted in a virtual civil war in Syria.

In a recent development, Saudi Arabia has agreed to restore ties with Iran, only if Iran stops meddling in the affairs of other countries. History has presented enormous opportunities for both countries to iron out their differences and work closely together in eliminating the scourge of terrorism from Iraq and Syria.

Pakistan on the other hand, has shown maturity by not taking sides in the Saudi-Iran conflict, though it has agreed to offer security to Saudi Arabia, should its territory be attacked.

Pakistan, which has great relations with Iran and Saudi Arabia, can play a pivotal role in persuading both the countries to come to the negotiating table to sort out their differences, as such a move will enable both countries to work closely in resolving the bloody crisis in the Middle East.

According to the Express Tribune, a high level delegation comprising of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the Army Chief, Raheel Sharif, has left for Saudi Arabia and Iran to mediate between the two countries. It is hoped that Pakistani mediation will bring about positive results in bridging the trust deficit between the two countries.

With the lifting of sanctions against Iran, India and Pakistan should seriously consider pursuing the Iranian offer of laying a gas pipeline connecting Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. This decision will help economies of both the countries in meeting their energy requirements.

Secondly, access to the Iranian market will definitely aid Pakistan and India; India can take up infrastructural projects in Iran, for instance, developing the Chabahar port and Pakistan can export rice to Iran.

Pakistan’s export of rice, which stood at $884 million in 2010, has drastically decreased to $43 million in 2015. Here is an opportunity for Pakistan to focus on exports of rice and other commodities to Iran.

If Pakistan agrees to give the most favoured nation status to India, I see an enormous opportunity in giving a fillip to the free flow of trade between India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran.

All that is required now is the political will amongst the leaders of all four countries to work closely for the benefit of their people and economies.

K S Venkatachalam

K S Venkatachalam

The author is an independent journalist and political commentator. He tweets as @Venkat48 (twitter.com/venkat48)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • teevee

    good article with one serious flaw, ISIS, AlQaeda are Saudi armies. There is no incentive for the dark kingdom to stop the violence, violence is what keeps them in power.Recommend

  • PatelPara

    definitely not an independent journalist. India seriously needs to show maturity.Recommend

  • jacob

    i dont like Saudi, they along with US created ISIS.. Saudi govt/royal family doesn’t have real love for Pakistan…they are being friendship with Pakistan just because of their military power… violence in Muslim world only strength Saudi family while the rest get wiped. Iran is better on that termRecommend

  • Mohammed Saadah

    Yes that’s why IS and Qaida kill more people in Saudi Arabia than any western country. Recommend

  • Allah Hafiz

    Iran GDP is almost 1.5 times of pakistan and with 8 crore population…and moreover iran growth in science field is almost 100% per year which no other islamic republic can match…..In short iranians are much better and 2nd most intelligent muslims in earth…….and Iran has less bomb blast and internal rift among all islamic countries….Recommend

  • Bairooni Haath

    Maturity from Pakistan? Pakistan has started 4 wars with India. 900 chuhe khake billi haj ko chali!Recommend

  • siesmann

    So SA is bombing its own armies?!!Recommend

  • Milind A

    “Pakistan on the other hand, has shown maturity by not taking sides in the Saudi-Iran conflict, though it has agreed to offer security to Saudi Arabia, should its territory be attacked”

    Any decision taken or behaviour exhibited out of emotionalism/sentimentalism cannot be termed mature.. The ‘maturity’ Pakistan is exhibiting is out of its concerns for the Muslim ummah, which is based on exclusivity… This is limiting in nature.. Had Pakistan exhibited similar leadership while dealing with the discrimination within (against Ahmadis, Shias, Hindus etc) or while dealing with issues concerning non-Muslim countries, this would be construed as mature.. You cannot discriminate against Muslim sub-sects internally while advising other countries to bury their sectarianism and kiss and make up… That’s hypocisy…Recommend

  • Komal S

    Who is the most intelligent muslim, if Iranian are the 2nd most intelligent muslims? I never knew you have intelligence index by muslim countries and ranked. Would be interesting to see this ranking.Recommend

  • Rohan

    Pakistan isn’t a mature country why would anybody take inspiration from a failed stateRecommend

  • Acorn Guts

    Fair point but you have to keep internal dynamics of Pakistan in view too. Foreign policy decisions are only influenced by a few parties i.e. establishment, few foreign masters and home ministry etc. and therefore it is relatively easier for Pakistan to take a clear line on such matters if all parties are on board.

    Internal political decisions have far too many stakeholders, influences and consequences which makes it very difficult to swim against the tide for the Govt.

    I agree with you but just saying that we should give credit where credit is due. In my opinion Pakistan has acted mature on international stage.Recommend

  • Miyagi Jr.

    Too bad , the only person who won you guys Nobel prize in Science can’t be called a Muslim, otherwise, there’s your index.Recommend

  • John west

    I hope there is a decisive war between Pakistan and India. Winner takes all! Last man standing kind a war! It will be soon, Recommend

  • sterry

    No one wants wars. The reason “Bairooni Haath” has so much anger is precisely because of wars. Muslim rulers have ruled India for over 1000 years before the British gave them a country and naturally Indian people are still upset about past Muslim rule. Pakistan and India are only disputing Kashmir. The way to solve Kashmir is through the United Nations and respecting the rights of people there.Recommend

  • Milind A

    “Indian people are still upset about past Muslim rule.”

    This is half-truth… Indians especially Hindus have the ability to move on.. The reason we’re upset is because some Muslims have this habit of harping on the ‘glories’ of Muslim rule, or glorifying invaders (bin Qasim, Ghori etc)… The Pakistan movement and its creation was a product of this regressive mindset which couldn’t tolerate Hindus in the power structure. The same mindset asked for 50% partnership in power when they represented only 13% of the population…Recommend

  • Muhammad Taqi Abbas

    I think they are number 1 Recommend

  • Muhammad Taqi Abbas

    Why the author has not posted the photo of recent king ?

    King abdullah has died . Recommend

  • Muhammad Taqi Abbas

    Lol . Saudi Arabia doesn’t accept pakistan as a mediator. Aww !! Still pakistan is ready to send her army to protect saudi iron throne . Recommend

  • LS

    It is even funny to hear this from Pakistani’s not realizing the fact that they were the second in line after Afghans to get converted under the same plundering marauders.Recommend

  • Al Karim

    Two words have been used improperly: ‘severe’ for ‘sever’, and ‘amongst’ for ‘among’.Recommend