Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Tuesday hosted a virtual meeting of his counterparts from some South Asian countries to deal with the COVID-19 situation during which he proposed flexible methods for “diversified and stable” vaccine supplies. Wang presided over the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to discuss COVID-19 cooperation to firm up its influence in South Asia.
India, Maldives and Bhutan were conspicuously absent at the meeting.
Wang said China also extended an invitation to India to attend the meeting, state-run Global Times reported.
He said that this meeting also extended an invitation to India. China expresses its deep sympathy over the raging epidemic in India and extends its sincere condolences to the Indian people, a press release issued by the Foreign Ministry here said.
State-run China Global Television Network quoted him as saying that the first batch of oxygen supplies have been sent to India.
Earlier, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a media briefing that the “door is wide open” for India and other South Asian countries to join the framework.
Foreign Minister Wang has proposed that under the six-nation framework mechanism, China is willing to promote vaccine cooperation with other countries through flexible methods such as free assistance, commercial procurement, and filling production to enable people in the region to obtain more diversified and stable vaccine supplies.
Currently except for Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan have received vaccine supplies from India.
He also noted that China is willing to set up warehouses for emergency supplies in those countries through friendly consultation and to explore various forms of cooperation tackling the spread of variants of COVID-19.
He said the meeting also agreed to strive for economic recovery and deepen cooperation on poverty alleviation.
According to Wang, a cooperation centre on poverty alleviation and national development will be established to facilitate exchanges of experience in relevant fields between China and South Asian countries.
Besides, all participant countries are ready to continue pushing forward cooperation under the framework of the “Belt and Road Initiative” to ensure the stability of the supply chain, CGTN quoted an official statement as saying.
Earlier, replying to questions about India’s absence, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said “China keeps the door wide open for the participation of all South Asian countries, including India in the spirit of openness and inclusiveness.
“All countries in the region including India are welcome to join, he said.
This meeting is part of China’s cooperation with South Asian countries and regional and international cooperation to fight the coronavirus pandemic, he said.
“We follow an open attitude and we are open for the participation of other South Asian countries, the spokesman said.
About China’s offer of extending support and assistance to India, which is currently experiencing a virulent second wave of coronavirus outbreak, he said, “China has expressed readiness early on to provide necessary support and assistance to India, and is coordinating Chinese enterprises to positively respond to India’s demand for anti-epidemic supplies such as oxygen concentrators”.
“We are willing to continue to carry out anti-epidemic cooperation with India in various ways in its fight against the epidemic. We are convinced that India will get through difficulties and come out the other side,” he said.
“We are also willing to help India and other countries fight the epidemic through bilateral channels, so as to safeguard public health and safety in the region through the joint efforts of all countries,” he said.
China reported the first COVID-19 case in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019 and since then the deadly disease has snowballed into a pandemic, affecting more than 147,925,000 people and over 3,122,300 deaths worldwide.
About Tuesday’s meeting the spokesman said, “as we speak, the virus is still spreading across the world. Against such a backdrop, China proposed to hold a video conference to demonstrate regional resolution to fight against COVID-19, deepen practical cooperation, consolidate momentum for economic recovery and safeguard outcomes and livelihood improvements.
“We hope that it will be a successful one and inject a new impetus to regional efforts to vanquish the virus and realise steady development,” he said.
“This meeting extends existing efforts by China at relevant South Asian countries to jointly fight COVID-19 and jointly resume socio-economic development,” he said, adding that it also stands as an integral part of international, regional anti-epidemic cooperation.
Since July 2020, China has hosted a series of meetings on combating COVID-19 including one meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Vice Foreign Ministers of China, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh and another fighting coronavirus and poverty alleviation at Director-General level of all the six countries, Wang said.
“The meetings effectively enhanced cooperation among countries to fight the virus and resume economic activities,” he said.