The Prime Minister will leave for Makkah, heading a delegation to the special OIC Summit on Friday. The summit will be preceded by an OIC foreign ministers’ meeting. Though a meeting of the Kashmir Contact Group may be held, the most pressing issue is that the differences between Saudi Arabia and Iran which have led to the US and Iran coming to the brink of conflict in the Strait of Hormuz. The Summit will be the first of three that Saudi Arabia is hosting as it seeks to build support for its position. However, the OIC Summit is the only one at which Iran is represented, the others being the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Arab League. Neither have Iran as members. This Special Summit also is the first to be held since the Saudi-Qatar dispute began two years ago. The Saudi-Yemen conflict is also something that might cause problems.
While Pakistan is not a party to the dispute, it finds itself having to take almost as much of an interest as either, because it represents a potential division in the OIC, and if the worst was to happen it would be the first time two OIC members would come into conflict with one another. It has large worker populations in both Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and has deep cultural and historical ties with Iran. It cannot afford to take sides in this dispute.
Another factor important for Pakistan is the attitude of the US. Not only is it backing Saudi Arabia, but also Israel, which is deadly opposed to Iran. However, Pakistan has also been a US ally. As the US also seems to be seeking a way to avoid an impasse which would lead to war, Pakistan seems well-placed to mediate. It should strongly defend the principle of peaceful co-existence at the summit itself, and work behind the scenes to convince both Saudi Arabia and Iran that the best, indeed the only, way to end disputes is to engage in dialogue. As the dispute with Iran began over its nuclear programme, and as Pakistan is the OIC’s only member with a nuclear weapon, it is peculiarly well suited to the task of peacemaking.