ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office on Friday still appeared to be reluctant to explain why Pakistan had declined an invitation from US President Joe Biden to attend the Summit of Democracy, which commenced on Thursday.
Several queries were raised during the weekly media briefing but the spokesperson chose not to respond directly except to say that: "With regard to the Summit for Democracy, I would like to say that our issued statement speaks for itself and I would like you to refer to it. It was a considered decision.
Our statement is quite clear and speaks for itself. Some of the opinions and impressions that I gather from your questions, I think, are unfounded."
He was asked whether the decision not to attend was because President Joe Biden had chosen not to make any direct contact with Prime Minister Imran Khan even after nearly a year in office or was it because China was not invited and Taiwan received an invite, and Pakistan wanted to show solidarity with Beijing.
Another query was whether Pakistan had an issue with the agenda of the summit. In fact, earlier in the morning, Chinese Foreign Office spokesman, Lijian Zhao, reproduced Pakistan's statement of declining the invite by tweeting, "Pakistan declined to attend democracy summit. A real iron brother!"
On Wednesday, the Foreign Office had issued a statement announcing that it would not attend the Summit of Democracy. "We are thankful to the United States for inviting Pakistan for participation in the Summit for Democracy. 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.” But quickly, the spokesman pointed out that the decline to attend the Summit of Democracy did not reflect on bilateral relations.
"Let me tell you that we remain closely engaged with the US on a range of issues. We value our partnership with the US and we wish to expand it bilaterally as well as in terms of regional and international cooperation," he said. He pointed to recent exchanges that the two sides have had, which include the delegation led by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Congressman Meeks, and there was another delegation arriving on Friday night led by Senate Armed Services Committee Chair, Senator King, all reflective of continuing, cooperative exchanges with the US.
When asked to expand on the comment about the prime minister having said that Pakistan is not part of any bloc, the spokesperson responded, "We are not part of any bloc, let me recall that this has been a consistent and longstanding policy of Pakistan, we have always maintained this principled opposition to the concept of bloc politics."
As Pakistani students keep protesting against the Chinese government’s decision not to allow them to return to continue their studies, the spokesman said that they were engaged with China on this issue.
"There is a constant dialogue and engagement with the Chinese side on this issue both in Islamabad and Beijing. We are conscious of the difficult position the students find themselves in due to the Covid situation. We continue to follow this matter with a view to addressing it at the earliest, and we know the high priority attached to it by the Chinese authorities as well," he said.
To another query, the spokesperson said he had not seen the peace agreement signed by the TTP and the government was in no position to comment on this.
When asked if the condolences for the Indian CDS who had passed away in a heli crash were sent on the state level or institutional level, the spokesperson responded: "I don’t see a need for interpretation. You have seen the condolences expressed by top military leadership on the tragic incident," he said.
While a number of powerful world capitals have diplomatically boycotted the Beijing Winter Olympics, to a query the spokesperson said, "The Olympic Spirit espouses fair participation in the events. Like in all previous Olympics events, Pakistan would like to see the Olympics Spirit upheld in true sporting fashion. Pakistan also opposes any form of politicization of sports and hopes that all nations would come together in Beijing and afford their athletes the opportunity to compete against the best and showcase their skills”.
Commenting on remarks made by the prime minister regarding dialogue with India, the spokesperson said: "The prime minister, while underscoring the need for dialogue to resolve conflicts and Pakistan’s commitment to it, also stated what was required on part of India in order to have meaningful engagement and negotiations. He also termed the unresolved Kashmir dispute as major obstacle for peace in the region."
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