Thursday December 07, 2023

US 'sorry' Pakistan skipped democracy summit, but says country 'can make its own decisions'

State Dept spokesperson Vedant Patel says US willingness to work with Islamabad unchanged

By Web Desk
March 31, 2023
US State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel. — AFP
US State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel. — AFP

Pakistan’s decision not to participate in the second Summit for Democracy, hosted by the United States, does not change the Biden administration’s willingness to continue to work with Islamabad on a “broad range of issues,” a State Department spokesperson said.

At the same time, spokesperson Vedant Patel said the US was “certainly sorry that Pakistan chose not to participate” in the three-day event that ended Thursday after discussing topics like strengthening democracy and defending against authoritarianism, addressing and fighting corruption, and promoting respect for human rights.

He was responding to a question from a Pakistani TV channel reporter, who sought his reaction to Pakistan’s move to opt out of the summit which was joined in-person and virtually by some 70 leaders from around the world.

China and Turkiye were excluded, but Taiwan was invited.

“It (Pakistan) is a sovereign state and it is one that can make decisions for itself, Patel said, adding, “This certainly does not change our willingness to continue to work with Pakistan.”

The US and Pakistan, he said, work together on a broad range of issues, and the Biden administration continues to engage with them on issues surrounding democracy, human rights, including freedom of religion and beliefs, pointing out that there there’s an important security partnership as well.

The same reporter asked him about the rising attacks by the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) terrorists in the country, and the spokesperson said he had seen those same reports and offered his condolences to those who were impacted.

“I don’t have any specifics to offer, but of course there is a deep security partnership with Pakistan, including counterterrorism efforts”, he added.

When an Indian journalist drew attention to India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s statement about not engaging with Pakistan on the plea that talks and terrorism do not go together, the spokesperson said he would let New Delhi add any additional commentary to his comments.

“But broadly,” Patel said, “what I would say is that the US values its important relationship with both our Indian partners and Pakistan as well, and these relationships stand on their own and are not a zero-sum proposition.”