Pakistan has decided to skip the summit on democracy being convened by US President Joe Biden on December 9 and 10.
The Biden administration has invited leaders from over 100 countries. Pakistan was among only four countries from South Asia that were invited to the summit. Others include India, Maldives and Nepal.
China and Russia were excluded from the invitees while Taiwan was extended the invitation, drawing a strong reaction from Beijing.
Islamabad’s move is seen as a clear snub to the White House that could entail serious implications for the already strained relations between the two countries.
The announcement was made by the Foreign Office on Wednesday after days of in-house consultations. No reason was cited in the official handout of virtually snubbing the US invite.
However, it is understood that multiple factors have played their part as is obvious from the fact that it took Pakistan days of consultations before finally deciding not to attend the summit.
Initially, Pakistan was thought to be part of Biden’s initiative at the ministerial level but it decided to skip the summit altogether because of a variety of reasons.
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One of the reasons includes the exclusion of China from the summit. The overall state of relations between the two countries is another major factor, compelling Islamabad to stay away from the summit.
It is believed that President Biden’s move to continue to ignore Prime Minister Imran Khan also made it difficult for Islamabad to attend the summit on democracy.
President Biden has yet to speak to the prime minister directly since taking over the White House earlier this year. But his invitation to Pakistan was seen as ice breaker.
It was not clear if China had anything to do with Pakistan’s decision, but official sources confirmed that Islamabad did consult Beijing on the issue.
The move by Pakistan to stay away from the summit indicates the nature of current relations between Islamabad and Washington. During the last month’s briefing to the lawmakers on Afghanistan, it was informed that the ties between Pakistan and the US were at the lowest ebb.
Pakistan also fears that the US may resort to some punitive action as the Treasury Department announced ahead of the summit that Washington would impose sanctions on people undermining democracy and also penalise countries having poor human rights record.
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The Foreign Office tried to use sugar-coated words to reject the invitation, but observers feel this may not go down well with the US, and Pakistan will have to prepare for the consequences for skipping the moot.
“We are thankful to the US for inviting Pakistan for participation in the Summit for Democracy, being held virtually on 9-10 December 2021,” Foreign Office said in a statement.
“Pakistan is a large functional democracy with an independent judiciary, vibrant civil society, and a free media. We remain deeply committed to further deepening democracy, fighting corruption, and protecting and promoting human rights of all citizens. In recent years, Pakistan has instituted wide-ranging reforms aimed at advancing these goals. These reforms have yielded positive results,” the handout read.
The statement went on to emphasise that Pakistan values its partnership with the US which it wishes to expand both bilaterally as well as in terms of regional and international cooperation.
“We remain in contact with the US on a range of issues and believe that we can engage on this subject at an opportune time in the future,” said while politely rejecting the US invitation.
“Pakistan will, meanwhile, continue to support all efforts aimed towards strengthening dialogue, constructive engagement, and international cooperation for the advancement of our shared goals,” the statement concluded.