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China, South Asian neighbors to build emergency supplies reserve

By ZHANG YUNBI | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2021-04-28 07:00

Chinese Ambassador Wang Yu (2nd L) hands over medical supplies to Mohammad Sarwar Danish, second vice president of Afghanistan, during a handover ceremony in Kabul, Afghansitan, April 2, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

As a major step in the joint fight against COVID-19 and efforts to boost economic recovery, China and five of its South Asian neighbors have agreed to build an emergency supplies reserve.

China, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh also agreed on Tuesday to establish a center for cooperation on poverty reduction and development, as well as hold a forum on cooperation in e-commerce-driven poverty reduction in rural areas.

The agreements came at a videoconference bringing together the six nations' foreign ministers to discuss how to further tackle the pandemic.

They met via video link at a time when South Asia is faced with another resurgence of COVID-19 infections amid growing concerns over a shortage of vaccines and medical supplies.

While chairing the meeting, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi made a four-point proposal, urging countries to enhance solidarity in the virus fight; deepen pragmatic anti-virus cooperation; promote post-pandemic recovery; and secure circumstances for enabling countries' growth.

A man is injected with vaccine against the coronavirus disease in Pakistan, April 7, 2021. [Photo/Xinhua]


The other five foreign ministers voiced support for Wang's proposal and thanked China for offering material and technical assistance to various countries fighting the virus.

They reiterated their countries' support for the World Health Organization continuing to play an active role in global anti-epidemic cooperation, and they opposed politicizing the pandemic.

Vaccination disparities were highlighted at the meeting, and the ministers said vaccines should not be monopolized by a small number of countries, and vaccine distribution should be based on fairness.

The five neighbors hailed China's efforts in boosting the accessibility and affordability of vaccines in developing countries.

When concluding the meeting, Wang said all the countries object to unilateralist bullying and interference in other nations' internal affairs.

If power politics continues to prevail, developing countries and small and medium-sized nations "will first fall prey" to it, and ordinary people in various countries will suffer first, Wang warned, adding that China will stand up to support justice and boycott interference and moves that coerce countries to choose sides.

At the meeting, the six nations agreed to closely track variants of the virus and discuss multiple ways for further collaboration to achieve an early victory over the virus.

To bring about economic recovery, they agreed to better protect people who are vulnerable to the economic impact, advance the co-building of the Belt and Road, keep afloat the production and supply chains, facilitate travel and shipments, and explore teamwork in the digital economy.

India had also been invited to the meeting amid the country's struggle with a deadly second wave of the virus, and Wang said China would like to express its sympathy to India and sincere greetings to its people.

Beijing is willing and available at any time to provide support and help to the people of India in accordance with India's needs, he added.

Similar meetings among these countries have been held since the pandemic's outbreak, such as the four-nation foreign ministers' videoconference of China, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nepal on COVID-19 in July.

By hosting Tuesday's meeting, China "aims to manifest the region's joint force in combating the virus, further advance cooperation for their virus fight, facilitate economic recovery and secure the public's livelihoods", said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin.

Inclusiveness pursued

The meeting is "a natural part of global and regional efforts in fighting the virus", Wang told reporters on Tuesday, and "other nations in the region are welcome to participate", as the meetings have always pursued inclusiveness and win-win collaboration.

As a sign of the heightened virus fight, the first shipment of oxygen concentrators from Chinese enterprises has been sent to India, according to Wang Yi, the state councilor.

On Sunday in Kabul, China handed over a shipment of emergency food assistance to Afghanistan. Chinese Ambassador to Afghanistan Wang Yu said at the handover ceremony that China will soon donate 400,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

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