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Imran Khan to skip Biden’s democracy summit, PM Modi to speak about democratic commitments

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan will not take part in U.S. President Joseph Biden’s two-day ‘Summit for Democracy’ that begins on Thursday, the Pakistan Foreign Ministry announced on Friday, making India one of the only three South Asian countries that will attend along with Nepal and Maldives.

Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Sri Lanka, were not invited to the event.

When asked, an American diplomat admitted that limits on the number of invitees on the list had been “arbitrarily placed”, but hoped that other democratic countries in the region would be invited to the next summit.

“Yes, not all the countries in the region have been asked to join,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Jennifer Larson said in response to a question from The Hindu about how the U.S. Government had decided on its list of “democracies”, given that electoral democracies like Bangladesh, Bhutan and Sri Lanka have not been invited.

Pakistan’s decision comes on the back of severe criticism of the U.S. summit plans from China, which has not been invited, along with Russia, presumably as they are Communist single party States.

“We value our partnership with the U.S. which we wish to expand both bilaterally as well as in terms of regional and international cooperation. We remain in contact with the U.S. on a range of issues and believe that we can engage on this subject at an opportune time in the future,” the Pakistan MFA said on Thursday, but did not give a specific reason for missing the summit.

Significantly, the invitation to Mr. Khan had been made despite the fact that Pakistan is one of the few countries the U.S. has a strategic dialogue with but Mr. Biden has not made a call to Mr. Khan since he took office in January 2021. The absence of any reach out from Mr. Biden to Mr. Khan, even as the U.S. military and State Department are in close cooperation over Afghanistan has been seen as a snub in Islamabad, and some in the Khan Government had reportedly suggested sending a nominee to the event or missing it altogether.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is due to speak during the leaders’ plenary on Friday, where all leaders are expected to make specific commitments on promoting democracy, on the lines of the climate change summit, officials aware of the agenda said.

“Certainly India is going to be playing a prominent role. We would encourage those who weren’t [invited] to work on commitments to democracy. We have asked a number of invitees to talk about demonstrating commitments towards the promotion of democratic ideals and we encourage those who may not have been part of this year’s list to continue to work with us for the next summit which, I believe, is going to take place in two years,” Ms. Larson said during a question and answer session at the Indian Ocean Region conference held over the weekend in Abu Dhabi, which was attended by leaders from the neighbourhood, including Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Foreign Ministers and other leaders of Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives and Nepal.

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