India, Pakistan, Nepal, and the Maldives are the four countries from South Asia among 120 countries at this year's Democracy Summit. Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan were not invited, but Pakistan, one of the most authoritarian and corrupt countries in South Asia with scant respect for human rights, was invited.
The two-day Summit for Democracy 2023 started for the second time at the White House on Wednesday (March 29). In addition to the United States, the conference is co-hosted by Costa Rica, the Netherlands, Zambia, and South Korea. Many questions have started to arise about this summit led by the United States - what is the rationale for holding such a meeting? The question also arises, how democratic is this American democracy summit?
The Democracy Summit is one of President Joe Biden's campaign promises ahead of the 2020 presidential election. Biden organized the first summit in 2021 to keep that promise. 112 countries around the world and about 750 delegates were invited to attend the conference. This time, 120 countries have been invited, including eight new ones. It is said that the main goal of this summit is to protect the world's democratic institutions, resist authoritarian rule, fight corruption, and uphold human rights.
More political than democratic
No rationale was found for the selection of participating countries. According to analysts, military-political relations, geopolitical calculations, and strategic support have been given more importance in the invitation. In addition, most of the invited countries do not qualify to meet the three criteria, or topics, that are the main goals of the summit. So, the summit is considered a tool for US global dominance. It is the politics of favoring countries in the name of democracy.
China is currently the main adversary of the United States on the stage of global politics. There is also the old enemy, Russia. Both these countries have been excluded from the list. But Taiwan, the country with which China has the biggest conflict, has been invited. Ukraine, Russia's backyard country, has been invited. In this context, China has said that democracy is being used as a 'weapon of mass destruction' by the US. Their real objective is to create a situation of 'division' and 'conflict' around the world.
The role of the United States in today's world is not unknown. Sometimes they overthrow a government through a civil war, sometimes through direct aggression, and sometimes through a military coup. According to analysts, US leaders are using things like democracy, human rights, and freedom of speech as weapons to protect their military, political, and economic influence and to hide their own misdeeds.
The leading role of the United States bears witness to its anti-democratic and anti-humanitarian character. Especially in Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Palestine, Iraq, and many other countries, they have directly violated human rights. The US and its allies have not been able to ensure the security of people's normal lives, let alone human rights or democracy, in these countries. So, the question for millions of peace-loving people around the world is: how can such a country be a defender of democracy and human rights?
Political analysts claim that the US is no longer a real democracy. The London-based Economist Intelligence Unit's (EIU) Democracy Index 2022 has ranked the United States among flawed democracies in this index, four places lower than the previous year. According to the EIU report, this is due to a decline in people's trust in political institutions, an essential component of a well-functioning democratic system. Pew, Gallup, and other polling organizations have also confirmed that people's trust in the US government has fallen to historic lows.
Democracy Summit and Bangladesh
India, Pakistan, Nepal, and the Maldives are the four countries from South Asia among 120 countries at this year's Democracy Summit. Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan were not invited, but Pakistan, one of the most authoritarian and corrupt countries in South Asia with little respect for human rights, was invited.
Bangladesh ranks third among South Asian countries in the democracy index. India tops the Democracy Index in the region with a score of 7.04. Globally, Bangladesh is in the 73rd position, India is in the 46th position, and Pakistan is in the 107th position. The question arises: why was Bangladesh not invited? Why did they invite a virtually dictatorial and military state like Pakistan to a democratic gathering where of the 75 years of Pakistan, 34 years have been under military rule and where the army still controls the powers of the state from behind? Analysts say this is because democracy has become a new tool of geopolitics for the United States. Globally, they are adopting different policies in different regions on the question of democracy and human rights.
The EIU says some Asian countries, including Bangladesh, have improved their scores despite a bad year for democracy. In their recently published report, Bangladesh achieved a global score of 5.99 and moved up two ranks. EIU ranked Bangladesh 73rd in the Democracy Index among 167 countries, achieving its best score since 2008. It is expected that Bangladesh will score better and have improved democracy in the coming days as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is known to be working towards that goal.
(The author is a security and strategic affairs analyst in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Views are personal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)