Is China Behind Pakistan’s Decision to Skip US Democracy Summit

Pakistan decided to skip the US’ Summit for Democracy and its decision came days after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s late-night phone conversation with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi. Pakistan has declined to participate in the Summit for Democracy, which is being hosted by US President Joe Biden on December 9-10, Pakistani daily The News’ reported on Thursday.

The US has invited 110 countries to take part in the country. The invitees from the Asia-Pacific region included India, Pakistan, Maldives, Japan, South Korea, Australia and the Philippines. China, where the Communist Party of China has been ruling the country since the People’s Republic was founded in 1949, is not among the list of invitees.

“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 a statement dated December 8, posted on the Pakistan Foreign Ministry website. “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, it said.

“We value our partnership with the US which we wish to expand both bilaterally as well as in terms of regional and international cooperation, it said. “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, it said.

Pakistan will, meanwhile, continue to support all efforts aimed towards strengthening dialogue, constructive engagement, and international cooperation for the advancement of our shared goals, it said. Observers say America’s invitation to Pakistan to attend Summit for Democracy has put Islamabad in a quandary as it was largely pursued aimed against isolating China.

Beijing has launched a broadside against the summit and it was also furious as Washington had invited Taiwan, which China claims as part of its mainland as part of it, to take part in the summit. Significantly, Pakistan’s decision to skip the democracy summit came after Wang had a late night phone call with Qureshi on Friday last, during which, according to state-run Xinhua news agency, he “expounded on China’s position on the so-called “Summit for Democracy” to be held by the United States”.

“What the United States aims for is not democracy but hegemony, Wang pointed out, adding that the country is seeking to defend its dominant position in the world in the name of democracy. The United States, he continued, is trying to interfere with other countries’ internal affairs under the banner of democracy, abusing democratic values and creating divisions in the world, the Xinhua report said.

Wang stressed if democracy is to be discussed it should be discussed on the platform of the United Nations in the spirit of mutual respect and on an equal footing. Observers say after Wang’s phone call, Pakistan, which is an all-weather strategic ally of China and beneficiary of the USD 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), had no option but to skip the summit.

A report by Pakistan’s Dawn’s newspaper said the US’ invitation had put Pakistan in a difficult spot as Washington invited Taiwan, instead of Beijing, to represent China at the summit. 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, it said.

“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, it said.

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