ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has turned down US’ invitation to take part in the Summit for Democracy, a virtual event set to take place on December 9-10.
The US has extended invitations to more than a hundred countries for the summit but China and some other countries are not included in the list.
Pakistan thanked the US for the invitation but said that it would engage with the country on a wide range of issues “at an opportune time in the future”, Geo News quoted the country’s Foreign Office as saying in a statement.
Stating that Islamabad remains deeply committed to further deepening democracy, Pakistan’s Foreign Office said that the country has instituted wide-ranging reforms to fight corruption, protect and promote the human rights of all citizens.
The virtual US Democracy Summit is going to bring together over 100 governments representing diverse democratic experiences from around the world, as well as leading activists, journalists, private sector leaders, and other members of civil society, the US State Department said on Tuesday.
“The summit aims to provide leaders a forum to engage, listen, and speak honestly about the challenges and opportunities facing democratic governments and about how democracies can deliver for their citizens,” the State Department said.
Washington will announce new initiatives and commitments at the summit in areas such as bolstering free and independent media, fighting corruption, defending free and fair elections, strengthening democratic reforms, and harnessing technology for democratic renewal.
The bilateral relations between the two countries have remained strained for the last several years since the US officials thought they were not getting requisite support from Pakistan to win the war in Afghanistan.
However, they have suffered a greater setback since the arrival of President Joe Biden who refused to speak to Pakistan’s prime minister, even as his administration continued to seek Pakistan’s support in Afghanistan.
“We are thankful to the United States for inviting Pakistan for participation in the Summit for Democracy, being held virtually on 9-10 December 2021,” said the foreign office in a statement, adding: “We value our partnership with the U.S. which we wish to expand both bilaterally as well as in terms of regional and international cooperation. We remain in contact with the U.S. on a range of issues and believe that we can engage on this subject at an opportune time in the future.”
The statement maintained that Pakistan had “a large functioning democracy with an independent judiciary, vibrant civil society, and a free media.”
It added the country was already striving to strengthen the democratic processes by instituting wide-ranging reforms to fulfil the objective.
Without specifying any reason why it wanted to stay away from the summit, the statement promised that Pakistan would work for greater international cooperation and constructive engagement with the US.
The democracy summit was a major campaign promise made by President Biden who said he wanted to hold such an event to prevent democratic backsliding by strengthening human rights and basic freedoms across the world.
The event became controversial, however, after Russia and China were not invited to it, making some analysts describe it as an American attempt to contain China.
US Democracy Summit
Biden has invited around 110 countries, including major Western allies but also Iraq, India and Pakistan, to a virtual summit on democracy that is being held on December 9-10.
The US invitation had put Pakistan in a difficult spot as Washington invited Taiwan, instead of Beijing, to represent China at the summit. Russia, another major world power, was also kept out. China is Pakistan’s closest ally while Islamabad is trying to improve its ties with Moscow as well.
Policymakers in Islamabad are worried that not attending the summit would give India a free hand, which already has a strong influence in the US. But a strong Chinese reaction to the US decision to invite Taiwan made it obvious that attending the summit could seriously damage Islamabad’s relations with Beijing, a risk Pakistan could not take.
China and the US are currently undergoing a turbulent period of political relations marked by competition at various fronts. The US has also announced a boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics over human rights concerns for which China said it would “pay the price”.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned of a potential new Cold War in September. He implored China and the US to repair their “completely dysfunctional” relationship before problems between the two large and deeply influential countries spill over even further into the rest of the planet.