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China deepens vaccine diplomacy with 5 South Asian nations

New Delhi: China, in an apparent attempt to expand its influence in India’s immediate neighburhood, has pledged to deepen anti-pandemic cooperation with Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi hosted a video conference with foreign ministers of the five South Asian countries on Tuesday, and discussed vaccine supply, post-epidemic economic recovery, maintaining a “sound international environment” for the development of all countries.

India, Bhutan and The Maldives were not invited to the event.

China, Wang said, is willing to promote vaccine cooperation with other countries through flexible methods such as free aid, commercial procurement, and filling and production of vaccines, under the framework of the six-nation cooperation mechanism, so that people in South Asia can obtain more diversified and stable vaccine supplies.

He said China is also willing to establish a China-South Asia emergency supplies reserve following friendly consultations with all parties.

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.

In the third quarter of this year, a forum on rural e-commerce and poverty reduction in South Asian countries and China will be held to build a new platform for poverty reduction, he said.

The six foreign ministers in a joint statement after the meeting said their countries will cooperate to combat the pandemic.

The ministers also said they 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.

Wang said China will work with countries of the region to resist interference in internal affairs and attempts of other countries to choose sides.

Wang’s proposals were supported by the other foreign ministers, who said that vaccines should be distributed under the principle of fairness and equality, instead of being monopolized by a few countries, state-run Xinhua news agency said.

“China will uphold the concept of a community with a shared future for humanity, stand firmly with the people of South Asian countries, and join hands and unite until all countries in the region eventually prevail over the pandemic,” Wang said.

Calling on the six countries to consolidate consensus on cooperating in the fight against COVID-19, Wang said the countries should continue to oppose attempts of labeling the virus and politicizing the epidemic, in order to prevent interference in international anti-epidemic cooperation.

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