The Summit on Democracy held on December 9 and 10 has been skipped by Pakistan. Statement issued said, “Islamabad is in contact with Washington on multiple issues and we can engage on this subject at an opportune time in the future. 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,” [Pakistan Foreign Ministry]. It is being lauded by some as a good decision on grounds that the summit is to be used to target China and Russia and some Muslim states. Diplomatic neutrality is an art. Pakistan has to balance relations between Washington and Beijing. China itself, heavily investing in CPEC, understands the art of diplomacy. To explain in numbers, China-India trade in 2021 exceeds $100 billion for the first time in October 2021. Qian Feng, Director of the Research Department of the National Strategy Institute of Tsinghua University, commented, “Even though the China-India border spat affected the bilateral relationship from the aspect of politics, the willingness of trade among entrepreneurs in both countries were not affected.” This is what Pakistan needs to learn. Another example of whimsical diplomatic bad shot was the PM Khan’s refusal to attend Kuala Lumpur Summit at the end of December 2019. PM Khan had travelled to Saudi Arabia a week before the Summit give-or-take to reassure the Kingdom that the participation in the Summit did not mean compromising on Saudi interests. One must consider then why the decision to participate without taking an institutional policy direction was made adhering instead to wishes of an individual. Pakistan has a tendency to diplomatically lose balance. Those who handle foreign policy see everyone as a friend or a foe. It is, indeed, rivalry, when China and Russia get left out and Taiwan gets invited to the democracy summit. However, could this forum not have been used to voice an opinion, pointing out the need to avoid segregating countries into blocs that leads to not only potential of cold war but also actual, physical wars that the world has been subjected to? This polarisation will not help. An opportunity has been missed by Pakistan to speak in favour of her friends. What one sees happening in Pakistan are the diplomatic initiatives being taken away by non-professionals, in many cases putting all eggs in one basket, besides blunders created by our politicians. Pakistan’s foreign policy is unconditionally being formed by the circumstances it came to creation. However, it is high time that the approach and narrative must change with ground realities. Pakistan has a tendency to diplomatically lose balance. Those who handle foreign policy see everyone as a friend or a foe. They need to bear in mind that no state is either. In international relations, there are only alliances and alliances change with time and changing circumstances. Pakistan lacks a coherent and long-term view on issues that reflects in its poor diplomatic efforts–if any. Governments come and governments go: the thrust towards issues involving nations remains even, of course, needing periodic assessment based on emerging situations. The situation between China and the US may turn for worse in times to come. Pakistan’s relations with both can help defuse the situation between both countries. The important point will be the degree of neutrality Pakistan can convey by her actions. US House of Representatives have passed a legislation in December 2021; restricting imports from China’s Xinjiang region. Voting count was 428-1, passing the “Uighur Forced Labour Prevention Act”. This places requirement of “clear and convincing evidence” that no forced labor was used to produce these goods. This will require exhaustive supporting data and acceptance of any such documentation will lie with the US relevant authorities. In these circumstances, it was important for Pakistan to attend this conference to be able to play a positive role for those she considers her friends. The writer is a lawyer, academic, political analyst and a published author. She can be contacted at email@example.com and tweets @yasmeen_9.