US State Department’s Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel on Thursday said that Pakistan absence from the second ‘Summit for Democracy’, hosted by US President Joe Biden this week, does not change Washington’s willingness to continue working with Islamabad.
At a press briefing, Patel expressed regret over Pakistan’s decision not to participate in the democracy summit. However, he noted that Pakistan is “a sovereign state” and “can make decisions for itself”.
He said that the US and Pakistan work together on a broad range of issues and that Wahington will continue to engage with Pakistan on issues surrounding democracy and human rights, adding that the two nations have an “important security partnership” as well.
In response to a question about the rising terrorist attacks in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and Pak-US counterterrorism cooperation, Patel said that “there is a deep security partnership with Pakistan, including counterterrorism efforts”.
When asked about relations with India and Pakistan, the spokesperson said that “the US values its important relationship with both our Indian partners and Pakistan as well, and these relationships stand on their own and are not a zero-sum proposition”.
Earlier this week, Pakistan decided to skip the three-day democracy summit after intense in-house deliberations due to concerns related to China. The US had invited over 100 countries, including Taiwan but had excluded China.
Just hours before the summit was to kick off, the Foreign Office issued a statement citing reasons for not attending the summit. “We are thankful to the United States and the co-host countries for inviting Pakistan to attend the Second Summit for Democracy being held on 29-30 March,” read a statement.
“We value our friendship with the United States. Under this Biden Administration, this relationship has widened and expanded substantially. We remain committed to further solidifying this relationship for peace, stability, and prosperity in the region,” the statement further read.
The statement said that Pakistan had not been part of the summit process that commenced in 2021 and required countries to make certain national commitments.
“The Summit process is now at an advanced stage and therefore, Pakistan would engage bilaterally with the United States and co-hosts of the Summit to promote and strengthen democratic principles and values and work towards advancing human rights and the fight against corruption,” it said.
Pakistan’s decision was complicated as the US did not invite China and Turkey while Taiwan attended the summit. Pakistan enjoys close ties with China and Turkey and any decision taken would keep in view both countries, particularly Beijing’s concerns.
Islamabad skipped the first US democracy summit in December 2021 because of China’s exclusion from the event. Pakistan also stayed away from the summit since President Biden did not speak to then prime minister Imran Khan. Moreover, Imran was only asked to send a recorded video statement for the summit, something that compelled the government to stay away.
Beijing had welcomed Islamabad’s move, reinforcing the perception that Pakistan had taken the decision at the behest of China.
Since the change of government in April last year, there has been a visible push by both Pakistan and the US to reset their ties. Similarly, Pakistan is desperately looking for the IMF bailout and the US role could be very crucial in that.
However, at the same time, Pakistan cannot antagonise China, whose support is critical for the country in case there is no IMF deal.
“Frankly, we need to stay neutral. We need to stay out of this power game of big powers,” said a source explaining the reason behind Pak skipping the summit for the second time.
Published on Logical Baat, March 31,2023.