Pakistan is among more than 100 countries that have been invited to a virtual summit on democracy in December, according to the US State Department.
India, often called “the world’s biggest democracy,” will also be present despite increasing criticism from human rights defenders over democratic backsliding under Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The global conference was a campaign pledge by the US president, who has placed the struggle between democracies and “autocratic governments” at the heart of his foreign policy.
The “Summit for Democracy” will take place online on December 9 and 10 ahead of an in-person meeting at its second edition next year.
The meeting was long advertised, but the guest list — published Tuesday on the State Department’s website — will be closely scrutinized.
Unsurprisingly, America’s main rivals China and Russia are not on it. Joe Biden has invited Taiwan – a move that sparked indignation from authoritarian China.
Taiwan thanked Biden for the invitation and said the gathering would be a rare opportunity for the self-ruled democracy to burnish its credentials on the world stage.
China said it “firmly opposed” the inclusion of an island it regards as “an inalienable part of Chinese territory”. Beijing claims self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory to be re-taken one day, by force if necessary.
Turkey, a NATO ally of the United States whose President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was dubbed an “autocrat” by Biden, did not make the list.
The city-state of Singapore and Bangladesh – one of the world’s most populous democracies — did not make the list either.
In the Middle East, only Israel and Iraq were invited. The traditional Arab allies of the US — Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates — are all absent.
Biden also invited Brazil, which is led by controversial far-right President Jair Bolsonaro.
In Europe, Poland is represented, despite recurring tensions with Brussels over respect for the rule of law, but Hungary’s far-right Prime Minister Viktor Orban is not.
On the African side, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria and Niger are invited.
“For this kick-off Summit… there’s a case for getting a broad set of actors into the room: it provides for a better exchange of ideas than setting a perfect bar for qualification,” Laleh Ispahani of the Open Society Foundations told AFP.
Rather than using the summit as an anti-China meeting, Ispahani urged Biden to address “the serious decline of democracy around the world — including relatively robust models like the US.”
This summit is being organized as democracy has suffered setbacks in countries where the US had placed great hopes.
Sudan and Myanmar have experienced military coups, Ethiopia is in the midst of a conflict that could lead to its “implosion,” according to US diplomats, and the Taliban took power in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of US troops after two decades.
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