Pakistan may attend US democracy summit

Published November 27, 2021
This file photo shows the Harry S. Truman Building, headquarters for the US State Department in Washington. — AP
This file photo shows the Harry S. Truman Building, headquarters for the US State Department in Washington. — AP

WASHINGTON: The US State Department on Friday issued the final list of the nations invited to the Summit of Democracy Washington is hosting on Dec 9-10 and the list includes Pakistan.

Diplomatic observers in Washington say that Pakistan is likely to participate in the 110-nation virtual summit, as it will boost its efforts to re-establish economic and political ties with the United States, which, until recently, was a close ally.

“Prime Minister Imran Khan, who visited the United States in July 2019, will address the summit as well, if Pakistan agrees to participate,” a diplomatic source said.

Those invited can confirm their participation by the end of next week.

Observers say that Pakis­tan might consult China before announcing its participation as the US decision to invite Taiwan, instead of Beijing, has angered China.

China’s Foreign Ministry said earlier this week that it was “firmly opposed” to the invitation. “US actions only go to show democracy is just a cover and a tool for it to advance its geopolitical objectives, oppress other countries, divide the world and serve its own interests,” Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters in Beijing.

Observers in Washington acknowledge that the invitation puts Pakistan in a difficult spot as it also fears giving India a free hand by opting out of the summit. Pakistan is worried about India’s growing influence in the United States since 2011, when Osama bin Lad­en’s presence in Abbottabad strained Islamabad’s relations with Washington.

From South Asia, the United States has invited both India and Pakistan but has kept Bangladesh out. Nepal has been invited too, although Sri Lanka is out.

Observers say the invitations show that American interests in the region played a key role in making the guest list. Three invitees — India, Pakistan and Nepal — have borders with China and the US wants to maintain friendly ties with them to counter China’s growing influence.

Apparently, strategic interests persuaded Washington to ignore concerns for democracy while inviting these three nations to the summit.

As expected, the Taliban-run Afghanistan is out too. Washington wants Kabul to form an inclusive government and undertake major social and political reforms, if it wants US recognition.

Russia has also been kept out of the summit, although both China and Russia are major world powers. With almost 1.40 billion people, China is the world’s most populous country, followed by India with almost 1.34bn people.

Russia is the largest country by far, with a total area of about 17 million square kilometres. China is also the fourth-largest in area, after Russia, Canada, and the United States.

Two major Middle Eas­tern nations — Turkey and Iran — are also out of the summit, although Iraq has been invited. Azerbaijan, which has a land dispute with Armenia, is out too, although Armenia has been invited. Azerbaijan has an authoritarian regime, as do other Middle Eastern and Central Asian nations.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are also out, apparently for being kingdoms, although the United Kingdom, a constitutional monarchy, is on the list.

So are Australia, Canada and New Zealand that recognise the British queen as their sovereign.

Egypt and Syria are also out of the list as they too have authoritarian regimes. Israel has been invited because it holds regular elections.

Published in Dawn, November 27th, 2021

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