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BRICS foreign ministers hold virtual meeting; discuss Covid-19 challenge

In his address at a virtual ministerial meeting of BRICS, Jaishankar said desired change can be achieved only by conducting policies in accordance with these principles.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: June 2, 2021 6:26:47 am
The virtual meet on Tuesday. (PTI)

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Tuesday highlighted the key principles guiding the five-nation grouping BRICS and referred to international law and the UN Charter that recognises the sovereign equality of all states, and respects their territorial integrity.

In his address at a virtual ministerial meeting of BRICS, Jaishankar said desired change can be achieved only by conducting policies in accordance with these principles.

The meeting was attended by Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi South African Minister of International Relations Grace Naledi Mandisa Pandor, and Brazil Foreign Minister Carlos Alberto Franco.

India hosted the meeting in its capacity as the chair of BRICS —Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa.

For the first time, BRICS foreign ministers have agreed on a common, standalone joint statement on reforming the multilateral system. They have also agreed that such reform has to cover all key multilateral institutions, including the UN and its principal organs (UN Security Council, General Assembly, ECOSOC, the Secretariat, etc); international financial architecture (IMF, World Bank); multilateral trading system (WTO, UNCTAD); and the global health governance system with the WHO at its core.

In particular, BRICS ministers agreed to instil new life in the discussions on reform of UN Security Council.

Equally significantly, the BRICS FMs have agreed to a set of six principles that should guide the reform of multilateral institutions, sources said.

Sources said India has always attached great importance to the work of the UN Security Council Sanctions Committees, particularly since these panels are instrumental in taking action against perpetrators of terrorism. Currently, during its own membership of the UN Security Council, India is Chair of UN Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1988. “In a significant move, we were able to get the BRICS FMs to call for further consolidation and strengthening of the working methods of UN Security Council Sanctions Committees to ensure their effectiveness, responsiveness and transparency,” a source said.

In his opening remarks, Jaishankar said BRICS has come a long way from the first time its foreign ministers met in New York in 2006 but the principles that guide the grouping remained consistent over the years.

“We strive for a fair, just, inclusive, equitable and representative multipolar international system. It is one based on international law and the UN Charter, that recognises the sovereign equality of all States, and respects their territorial integrity while displaying mutual respect for interests and concerns of all,” he said.

“It is only by conducting our policies in accordance with these principles that we can expect to bring about the change we desire,” he added.

Jaishankar said BRICS has over the years evolved its unique model of engagement based on consensus and that its collective endeavour is also to ensure that global decision-making reflects contemporary realities. “To this end, we have identified four key deliverables for our chairship — reform of the multilateral system, counter-terrorism cooperation, using digital and technological solutions to achieve SDGs, and enhancing people-to-people cooperation,” he said.

“I am very happy to note that we have made substantial progress on each of these areas in the past five months with the continued cooperation and support of our partners,” he added.

The BRICS brings together five of the largest developing countries of the world, representing 41 per cent of the global population, 24 per cent of the global GDP and 16 per cent of the global trade.

In his comments, Wang expressed solidarity with India as it has been dealing with a severe second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Let me begin by expressing my sympathy to India over the severe impact of the new wave of COVID-19 infections. In these trying times, China stands in solidarity with India and all BRICS countries,” he said.

Wang said BRICS now faces the profound and complex ramifications of the pandemic and changes unseen in a century. At the same time, he said opportunity may arise from the challenge. He also commended India for its efforts as BRICS chair to enhance cooperation among the member nations.

“Together we will take solid steps to deepen BRICS cooperation in political and security fields and lay a strong foundation for this year’s summit,” he said.

Pandor spoke about the proposal by South Africa and India at the WTO seeking a patent waiver for Covid-19 vaccines. “South Africa and India submitted a proposal to the WTO for a temporary waiver of certain aspects of TRIPS to facilitate wider access to technologies needed to produce vaccines, for treatment and diagnostics,” she said.

The minister said there is a need to address the global gap of vaccine access to realise the ambition of “none of us are safe until all of us are safe” and leave behind the pandemic.

In his comments, Lavrov also expressed Russia’s solidarity with India in its fight against the pandemic.

India and South Africa have been raising the issue of TRIPS — Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights — waiver for Covid 19 vaccines. On Tuesday, all BRICS countries agreed to support this measure, and called for supporting ongoing consideration in WTO on a Covid-19 vaccine Intellectual Property Rights waiver and the use of flexibilities of the TRIPS agreement and the Doha Declaration on TRIPS Agreement and Public Health.

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