Pakistan launches charm diplomacy after skipping US summit

Move comes as Islamabad ‘desires’ good working ties with Washington

Kamran Yousaf April 01, 2023


Days after skipping the US summit on democracy, Islamabad has reached out to Washington in an effort to make it understand the reason behind its decision.

Official sources told The Express Tribune on Saturday that Pakistan “attaches importance to its relations with the US and, hence, it doesn’t want any negative fallout of its move to stay out of President Biden’s democracy summit”.

The sources said Pakistan engaged with the US officials quietly to explain the reason behind the decision.

On Thursday Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari hosted Iftar for the diplomatic corps and the US ambassador was seated next to him. Sources said the message was clear that Pakistan wants to maintain the relations with the US.

It seemed that the Pakistani approach worked as US State Department's Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel said Pakistan’s absence from the second 'Summit for Democracy', “does not change Washington's willingness to continue working with Islamabad”.

Read more: US hints at reviving post-9/11 era anti-terror initiatives with Pakistan

At a news 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 worked together on a broad range of issues and that Washington will continue to engage with Islamabad on issues surrounding democracy and human rights, adding that the two nations have an "important security partnership" as well.

Pakistan was invited to the summit that concluded on Friday. However, Islamabad opted out of the event. The foreign office tried to deflect attention from the actual reason 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 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," it said.

But far from the public position taken by the foreign office, the actual reason that Pakistan did not join the summit was China.

Pakistan's decision was complicated as the US did not invite China and Turkey while Taiwan attended the summit.

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.


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