This was not the first time Nawaz Sharif took himself seriously enough to think he could broker peace among the Arabs. He tried ahead of the first Gulf war – despite the imminent oil supply squeeze – and came back empty handed. Saddam refused to see him on the grounds that ‘he’s stationed thousands of troops for war against my country, and now he wants to come to my country to talk peace’, etc. And his meeting with Fahad barely made the news. He tried again after the Saudis executed – and beheaded and crucified, then dropped from a helicopter – Sheikh Nimr al Nimr, and was duly snubbed by Riyadh.
The latest episode is the most surprising. Once again he took the army chief, and his usual aides Sartaj Aziz and Ishaq Dar, to Riyadh to make peace between the Kingdom and Iran. Yet a good few days after his return the Saudi ambassador to Pakistan had to hold a press conference in Islamabad to clarify that Nawaz never really mentioned he was ‘mediating’. But since mediation is exactly what the prime minister’s office announced just before Nawaz took off, it seems that the Saudis just didn’t see the nine o’ clock news in Pakistan.
Still, they must have talked about something. And if Nawaz really thought he was mediating, he would have brought up better relations with Iran, etc, and the Saudis would have responded. But since the Saudis still do not believe he was mediating, what exactly did they talk about? It’s no secret that the Saudis have been increasingly annoyed with Pakistan since parliament’s refusal to play along in Yemen. It seems that the architect of the disastrous Yemen war, and now Saudi crown prince, might not be too happy with the arrangement with Pakistan as it stands. If Nawaz must talk to the Arabs, it should be about respecting Pakistan and its sovereignty.