In a highly public snub to the United States and especially the Biden administration, Prime Minister Imran Khan turned down an invitation to attend the first ‘Democracy Summit’ hosted virtually on December 9-10, 2021. The aim of the summit was to bring “together leaders from government, civil society, and the private sector in our shared effort to set forth an affirmative agenda for democratic renewal and to tackle the greatest threats faced by democracies today through collective action.”
In a statement Pakistan’s Foreign Office pointed out that Pakistan “values our partnership with the US, which we wish to expand both bilaterally as well as in terms of regional and international cooperation. 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. Pakistan will, meanwhile, continue to support all efforts aimed towards strengthening dialogue, constructive engagement, and international cooperation for the advancement of our shared goals.”
However, Prime Minister Khan referred to the U.S. ‘Democracy Summit’ as a “Cold-War approach claiming that Pakistan did not want to be a part of any political bloc in the region but instead wanted to play a role in bridging the gaps between the US and China.”
China immediately expressed support with Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson and Director General Information Department Lijian Zhao tweeting: “Pakistan declined to attend democracy summit. A real iron brother! The people who sustain the worst losses are usually those who overreach, including all those who think they are calculating enough to play the “Taiwan card.”
What Islamabad appears to have forgotten, or deliberately ignored, is that if the country seeks to remain close to both the U.S. and China, it needs to be able to balance relations rather than upsetting one country for the sake of another. Unless, of course, despite all protestations, Pakistan’s leaders have already decided that China is their one and true ally.