The still fresh faced Imran Khan has only been Pakistan’s Prime Minister since August of this year, yet his diplomatic skills and ability to balance good relations between multiple rivalling powers has already proven that Imran has eschewed the ideological bent that defined some of his childish predecessors and has instead adopted a mature understanding of the importance of good relations with as many nations as possible – all in the pursuit of bettering the lives of the Pakistani people.
Already, Imran’s government has simultaneously improved relations with Saudi Arabia and Iran, the UAE and Turkey, as well as Turkish partner and Saudi/UAE rival Qatar, a nation Imran plans to visit later this month. This is especially remarkable as Qatar’s surprise withdrawal from OPEC could potentially cause a deepening of the ongoing row between Doha and Ankara on one side and Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Cairo on the other. But just as Imran’s Pakistan was able to secure a substantial loan from Saudi Arabia while some of Pakistan’s other partners including Turkey were embroiled in the height of tensions with Riyadh over the Jamal Khashoggi murder, so too will Imran’s unique brand of win-win diplomacy be able to straddle good relations with Qatar and its rival neighbours simultaneously.
It further helps to remember that Iman Khan’s Naya Pakistan (New Pakistan) is of course the country that has tendered an honest bid to mediate in the crisis in Yemen while even a US government that had been uniformly hostile to Pakistan has now requested Pakistan’s assistance in bringing some closure to the ongoing war in Afghanistan. The reason for Imran’s diplomatic success is that he approaches friendly nations (China, Turkey, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar) with warmth, humanity and sincerity while he approaches difficult nations (the United States and India) from a position of strength that seeks a pragmatic relationship rather than an intensely hostile one.
While Pakistani media continues attempts to divide the nation against its Naya government, the wider world is witnessing a diplomatic triumph in the form of Imran Khan. Just as in his cricketing days, everyone wanted to shake Imran’s hand, in the diplomatic arena a similar phenomenon is occurring in spite of the stakes being far higher than in sport.
At a time when Pakistan’s economic revival is deeply dependant on strong partnerships with foreign powers of all sizes, Imran’s diplomatic excellence represents a monumental asset to a nation that in the past had been known for producing unremarkable politicians which themselves often oversaw a confused diplomatic environment.
To be sure, many individuals surrounding the new government have yet to fully internalise this new mentality that Imran Khan has ushered in, but so long as Imran can help to install a more professionalised sense of discipline among those around him, there is no doubt that the dividends to Pakistan which are derived from Imran’s diplomatic style will increase exponentially over time.
Not every head of government would be able to straddle relations among rivalling nations with the ease that Imran Khan has thus far demonstrated that he has mastered. In an age where the American and Indian governments are models of a narrow minded zero-sum mentality, Imran Khan has instead decided to pursue the win-win principles that tend to define modern China, Turkey, Russia, Malaysia and The Philippines.
While character defamation is something of a proverbial blood sport throughout the wider south Asian media environment, it helps to remember that from an external perspective, Imran Khan is towering above his predecessors and his opponents in terms of his diplomatic acumen. As soon as the results of Imran’s diplomatic tact bear more obvious fruits, perhaps even some of the critics will be shamed into silence.