The BRICS grouping strives for an equitable multi-polar international system that recognizes the sovereign equality of all states and respects their territorial integrity, external affairs minister S Jaishankar told a virtual meeting on Monday that included his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. The Indian minister and his counterparts from the four other countries also focused on the response to the Covid-19 pandemic and access to vaccines in their remarks.
Jaishankar’s comments were part of his welcome address at the meeting of foreign ministers of the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) grouping, and came against the backdrop of the military standoff on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) that has dragged on for more than a year.
India is the current chair of BRICS and the meeting of the foreign ministers set the stage for the summit to be hosted by the country later this year.
Noting that BRICS had come a long way since the first meeting of its foreign ministers in 2006, Jaishankar said, “But the principles that guide our grouping remain consistent over the years. We strive for a fair, just, inclusive, equitable and representative multi-polar 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. It is only by conducting our policies in accordance with these principles that we can expect to bring about the change we desire.”
BRICS has evolved a unique model of engagement based on consensus, and its collective endeavour is to ensure that global decision-making reflects contemporary realities, Jaishankar said.
He said India has identified four key deliverables while chairing the grouping this year – reforming the multilateral system, counter-terrorism cooperation, using digital and technological solutions to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and enhancing people-to-people cooperation – and substantial progress has been made in these areas over the past five months.
Wang avoided contentious issues in his opening remarks and said China and other BRICS members stand with India amid the second wave of Coronavirus disease (Covid-19) infections and will provide the necessary support. “BRICS cooperation now faces the profound and complex ramifications of the pandemic and changes unseen in a century,” he said.
South Africa’s foreign minister Grace Naledi Mandisa Pandor referred to the proposal by her country and India at the World Trade Organization (WTO) for waiver of patent protections for Covid-19 vaccines and said, “We have a global dilemma – millions of people in wealthier nations have been vaccinated while billions of people in poorer countries still wait and are still vulnerable to infection, disease and death.”
The proposal by India and South Africa seeks a temporary waiver of certain aspects of TRIPS to facilitate wider access to technologies needed to produce vaccines, treatments and diagnostics by poorer countries, she said. “Agreement will allow the use of intellectual property, the sharing of technologies and technology transfer and the production of vaccines, therapeutics and wider distribution so that we achieve the ambition of none of us are safe until all of us are safe,” she said.