DIPLOMACY: China In South Asia

Chinese Foreign Minister Pledges to Deepen Anti-pandemic Cooperation with South Asian Countries

May 19, 2021, 8:23 a.m. Published in Magazine Issue: VOL. 14, No. 17, May 09, 2021 (Baisakh 26, 2078) Publisher: Keshab Prasad Poudel Online Register Number: DOI 584/074-75

As India has been passing through a grim situation with the upsurge of second wave of COVID-19 pandemic, five foreign ministers from South Asia and Chinese Foreign minister have pledged to deepen anti-pandemic cooperation and support India as much as possible.

Foreign ministers of China, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh agreed to deepen cooperation as South Asian countries are facing a new wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi hosted a video conference with his five counterparts, discussing efforts to consolidate anti-corona virus cooperation including vaccine supply, to boost post-epidemic economic recovery, and to maintain the sound international environment for the development of all countries.

China expresses deep sympathy for the raging pandemic in India and extends its sincere condolences to the Indian people, Wang said. "China is ready to provide support and assistance to the Indian people at any time according to the needs of India," Wang said.

He expressed the hope that the meeting, to which India was also invited, will act as an assistant to India's fight against the pandemic.

The Foreign Ministers of Nepal, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka have pointed out that COVID-19 is a common enemy of humankind, and that the countries should step up solidarity and cooperation to win the final victory over it.

Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi of China, Acting Foreign Minister Mirwais Nab of Afghanistan, Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen of Bangladesh, Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi of Pakistan, and Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena of Sri Lanka, in the video conference, discussed the joint response to COVID-19 and exchanged views on international and regional cooperation on pandemic response and post-COVID economic recovery.

A joint statement issued by the Foreign Ministries of six countries informed that during the video conference the Foreign Ministers have noted with satisfaction the concerted and productive efforts made by their countries since the start of COVID-19 to combat the virus and promote economic recovery in the spirit of overcoming challenges through cooperation and mutual assistance.

At the meeting, China expressed its readiness to provide continued medical supplies and technical assistance to the participating countries to the best of its ability. Chinese initiative was appreciated, the statement read.

The Foreign Ministers reiterated their firm support to WHO’s due role in the global cooperation against COVID-19 and acknowledged that tracing the origin of the virus is a matter of science and a global mission. They have expressed opposition to politicizing the issue. The participating countries will strengthen cooperation to track COVID-19 mutation closely.

They have agreed that vaccines, as a key weapon to defeat COVID-19, should be distributed in accordance with the principle of equity and justice.

Foreign Ministers expressed that “vaccine nationalism” will hinder the global efforts to defeat COVID-19 and underscored the need to avoid the “immunity gap” and they appreciated China’s efforts in addressing this challenge.

“China would act on President Xi Jinping’s important statement on making the vaccines a global public good, and carry out continued vaccine cooperation with the participating countries in a flexible manner, including co-production of COVID-19 vaccines,” the statement read.

Recognizing the serious impact of COVID-19 on the global economy and its complex implications for the sustainable development of all countries, the Foreign Ministers have agreed to deepen Belt and Road cooperation, open their borders under the premise of pandemic prevention and control for smooth trade, keep the industrial and supply chains stable and secure, and give a stronger boost to economic recovery and the improvement of people’s lives.

“China agreed to support the participating countries to overcome the impact of COVID-19 on their economies through an enhanced level of economic cooperation and collaboration,” the statement added.

Similarly, they stressed the importance to strengthen cooperation in poverty reduction, food security and other non-traditional security fields to protect the livelihood of people with special attention to the most vulnerable groups.

To facilitate personnel exchanges against the backdrop of COVID-19, the Foreign Ministers agreed to discuss the possibility of mutual recognition of digital “health codes”.

To push forward practical cooperation in relevant fields, China announced its decision to establish a China-South Asian Countries Emergency Supplies Reserve, set up a China-South Asian Countries Poverty Alleviation and Cooperative Development Center, and hold a China-South Asian Countries E-commerce Cooperation Forum on Poverty Alleviation in Rural Areas.

The Foreign Ministers agreed to make these mechanisms inclusive, transparent, sustainable and demand-driven. Similarly, they have agreed to closely follow the development of the COVID-19 situation in India and expressed their willingness to provide needed support through respective channels in consultation with India.

The Foreign Ministers agreed to maintain the momentum of cooperation among the six countries, hold consultations at the Foreign Minister, Vice Foreign Minister/Secretary and Director General Levels, expand cooperation areas and lend impetus to future cooperation.

On boosting the post-epidemic recovery, Wang said China proposes to establish a China-South Asia poverty reduction and development cooperation center to exchange experiences in poverty reduction with other countries.

The foreign ministers said their countries are willing to work with China to continue to deepen the joint construction of the Belt and Road, maintain the stability and security of the industrial and supply chains, strengthen cooperation in non-traditional security areas such as poverty reduction and food, and discuss measures to facilitate personnel exchange and commodity circulation based on the regular epidemic prevention and control.

The six foreign ministers issued a joint statement on cooperation in fighting the epidemic after the meeting.

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