Promise of stability in the Middle East.

My recent book on Pakistan published a couple of months ago looked at how the country is affected by developments in its immediate neighbourhood as well as in those not too distant from its borders. The book appeared under the title of Pakistan: Statecraft and Geopolitics in Today's' World. This is my fifth book dealing with Pakistan; the first was published in London by Macmillan under the title of Pakistan Under Bhutto. That was in 1980. The book was mistitled as the executed prime minister played a minor role in the story I then told. In all these writings, my tone remained positive and optimistic about the country's future.

To convey the gist of my long-held beliefs, I will quote the concluding sentences from the recent book. 'Pakistan stands at the cusp of bringing about a change for the better in its political system, the structure of its economy. And its relations with the world outside its borders,' I wrote. For that to happen would 'require a better understanding of how to achieve this, policymakers at the center and in the provinces must develop institutions that can study the changes that are needed and also involved the citizens of Pakistan in the consultation and decision making process.'

Since the book was written while the world was changing fast, it had to be revised several times before it went for printing. If I were to write the book now it would have a major change: how the Middle East is being transformed as a result of the recent agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The agreement between the two countries was mediated by China and the announcement that it had been concluded was made in Beijing. The fact that these two regional powers had decided to work together surprised the world including the experts who study the region. 'It kind of sets the scene for the region's two superpowers to start to hash out their differences,' said Dina Esfandiary of the International Crisis Group. 'The potential downside of that, of course, is that if they are the ones who are divvying up the region and sorting out things amongst themselves, you start to lose sight of regional contexts and grievances which could potentially be problematic.' Senior Iranian leaders welcomed the move. Iran's foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollhahian welcomed the rapprochement and promised that Iran will 'actively prepare other regional initiatives'. He went on to tweet and wrote that return to normal relations offers great opportunities to two...

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