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Caught in a bind Pakistan to again miss Biden’s Democracy Summit today

Challenges rising for for Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif

For the second time running, Pakistan has chosen not to attend the Democracy Summit taking place in Washington on Tuesday, March 28. On Tuesday afternoon, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) Pakistan said that it will instead engage with the US on a bilateral basis.

Till a day earlier, the Pakistani media was confident that Islamabad would attend the summit as the current government headed by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is keen to mend ties with Washington. The bilateral relations had been substantially damaged by former prime Minister Imran Khan.

It is being speculated that Pakistan pulled out hours before the summit in a bid to not offend all-weather friend China and Islamic buddy Turkiye – both of which have not been invited to the summit by the US.

In a statement, the Pakistani foreign ministry said: “Pakistan has 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”.

The foreign ministry statement added: “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 2023”.

The statement added: “Under the 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”.

Participating in the second democracy summit was a fraught decision for Islamabad as it did not want to upset China, which is possibly the only country that has lent some credit to cash-strapped Islamabad in recent times. On the other hand, Pakistan has been vigorously courting Washington in a bid to wrangle a bailout loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as well.

The US has invited nearly 120 countries for the summit beginning today. These include India as well as Taiwan.

The virtual summit, had been first initiated by US President Joe Biden in December 2021 to renew democracy in the United States and around the world for meeting the unprecedented global challenges. Biden had invited leaders from the government, civil society, and the private sector to build an affirmative agenda for democratic renewal and tackle threats faced by democracies through collective action.

Also read: After being shunned by Biden and pressured by China, Imran Khan refused to attend US hosted Democracy Summit