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Pakistan Values Ties with U.S., Says Foreign Office after Democratic Summit Snub

by Newsweek Pakistan
Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs

File photo

In weekly press briefing, spokesperson slams planned diplomatic boycott of 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing

Pakistan’s Foreign Office on Friday emphasized that Islamabad values its relationship with the U.S. after journalists questioned the reasoning behind it snubbing a virtual Democracy Summit hosted by President Joe Biden.

Refusing to elaborate on a statement that had confirmed Pakistan would not be participating—but had not provided any reason for the decision—spokesperson Asim Iftikhar maintained during a weekly press briefing that the statement “speaks for itself … it was a considered decision.”

Claiming that media impressions over the move were “unfounded”, he reiterated that Pakistan remained engaged with the U.S. on a range of issues. “We value our partnership with the U.S. and we wish to expand it bilaterally as well as in terms of regional and international cooperation,” he added.

During the briefing, the spokesperson was asked whether the decision to skip the summit was motivated by Biden not calling Prime Minister Imran Khan since assuming the U.S. presidency, or China not being invited to participate, or Islamabad disagreeing with the summit’s agenda.

Analysts and observers have claimed that Pakistan’s decision to skip the summit was motivated by the U.S. inviting Taiwan but not China, violating the “One China” policy espoused by Beijing. This belief was bolstered by Chinese official Zhao Lijian hailing the decision on Twitter by terming Pakistan “a real iron brother.”

The decision also appears to go against a statement issued by Prime Minister Imran Khan earlier this week. Addressing the Institute of Strategic Studies, he claimed Pakistan wanted to act as a ‘bridge’ between China and the U.S. and had no desire to become part of any bloc.

Diplomatic boycott

“Pakistan 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,” Iftikhar said of reports that the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia would not send officials to Beijing in protest against the host country’s human rights violations. No athletes would however be barred from participating in the games.

Wishing China success in hosting Beijing Olympics, the spokesperson added: “We are confident that despite limitations imposed by COVID-19, the Beijing Winter Olympics would offer a spectacular and colorful gala to sports enthusiasts around the world, including in Pakistan.”

To a question, he clarified that Pakistan was engaged with China over Beijing barring Pakistani students from returning to continue their studies. “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 added.

To another question, Iftikhar said the government was not in a position to comment on the ceasefire agreement that had been inked with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.

The Foreign Office also reiterated its condemnations of Delhi’s atrocities in India-held Kashmir, and called on the international community to take notice of the plight of Kashmiris.

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