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China, BRICS stand with India in fight against Covid: Wang Yi

All five BRICS member countries, including China, will provide support to India as it battles against the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, Chinese state councilor and foreign minister Wang Yi said.

“Let me begin by once again expressing my sympathy to India over the severe impact of the new wave of Covid-19 infections,” Wang said via video link at a BRICS foreign ministers’ summit on May 31.

Wang said, “At this trying time, China stands in solidarity with India and all BRICS countries. As long as it is needed by India, I believe all BRICS partners including China will provide further support and assistance at any time. We are fully confident that India will certainly overcome the pandemic.”

The Chinese minister lauded India for conducting its role as the BRICS chair despite the raging pandemic.

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BRICS backs Covid-19 vaccine patent waivers

New Delhi: The BRICS grouping endorsed an India-South Africa proposal for patent waivers for Covid-19 vaccines and called for sharing of doses, transfer of technology, and development of vaccine production capacities in order to turn the tide in the fight against the coronavirus disease.

Against the backdrop of the India-China border standoff, members of the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) grouping reaffirmed the importance of territorial integrity and sovereignty of states and the need to resolve problems through peaceful means.

A virtual meeting of foreign ministers of BRICS states, which was chaired by external affairs minister S Jaishankar, also resolved to combat all forms of terrorism, including cross-border movement of terrorists, terror financing networks, and safe havens.

Jaishankar and his counterparts from the four other countries – China’s Wang Yi, Brazil’s Carlos Alberto Franco França, Russia’s Sergey Lavrov, and South Africa’s Grace Naledi Mandisa Pandor – focused on the response to the Covid-19 crisis and equitable access to vaccines during their deliberations.

India and South Africa have been pushing for a waiver of patent protections for Covid-19 vaccines at the World Trade Organization (WTO) since last year, and all the BRICS members agreed to support this measure as part of efforts to ensure timely, affordable and equitable access to diagnostics, vaccines, and essential health products and technologies and their components to combat the pandemic.

“The ministers reaffirmed the need to use all relevant measures…including 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,” said a joint statement on reforming the multilateral system that was adopted at the meeting.

The ministers reiterated the need for sharing vaccine doses, transfer of technology, development of local production capacities and supply chains for medical products, and promotion of price transparency, and sought “due restraint in the implementation of measures that could hinder the flow of vaccines, health products, and essential inputs”. They also called for timely operationalization of the BRICS vaccine research and development center.

Though there was no official word on whether the India-China standoff figured in the discussions, Jaishankar said in his opening remarks that Brics strives for an inclusive and equitable multipolar international system that respects the territorial integrity of all states. (Hindustan Times)

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Latest News USA

Coronavirus: US advises its citizens to avoid all travel to India

Washington, DCThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised Americans to avoid all travel to India. In a statement, the CDC on Monday said: “Because of the current situation in India even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants and should avoid all travel to India. If you must travel to India, get fully vaccinated before travel. All travelers should wear a mask, stay 6 feet from others, avoid crowds, and wash their hands.” 

Besides, the United States is “very closely” tracking the course of the COVID-19 outbreak in India, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price has said. 

The statement from Price comes after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Monday and discussed US-India cooperation on climate change, COVID-19, and other global challenges and pledged to remain in close contact on these and other issues of mutual concern.

“There are protocols in place, requiring testing for international travel. What is true is that we are tracking the course of the COVID outbreak in India very closely as I mentioned before, Secretary Blinken and Foreign Minister Jaishankar did discuss it yesterday,” Price said in a statement on Tuesday.

“We are committed to doing what we can both at the present. And going forward, to see to it that this virus is brought under control and I spoke again of our engagement with those who are funding COVAX, the Quad arrangement that of course implicates. What we’re seeing in India,” he added.

Price further said that Secretary Blinken consistently makes the point that as long as the virus is out of control and is uncontained anywhere around the world, it continues to present a risk to the American people.

According to the World Health Organization, from January 3, 2020 to April 20, 2021, India has reported 15.3 million COVID-19 cases and over 1,80,000 deaths. As of April 11, a total of 104 million vaccine doses had been administered, the WHO said.


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In a multi-polar, pluralistic post-Covid world, India will help make a difference

By S. Jaishankar

Minister of External Affairs of India

We enter 2021, hoping to put the Covid-19 pandemic behind us. While each society has dealt with it uniquely, global diplomacy will nevertheless focus on common concerns and shared lessons. Much of that revolves around the nature of globalization.

The general sense in our generation is of trade, finance, services, communication, technology and mobility. This expresses the interdependence and interpenetration of our era. What Covid, however, brought out was the deeper indivisibility of our existence. Real globalization is more about pandemics, climate change and terrorism. They must constitute the core of diplomatic deliberations. As we saw in 2020, overlooking such challenges comes at a huge cost.

Despite its many benefits, the world has also seen strong reactions to globalization. Much of that arises from unequal benefits, between and within societies. Regimes and dispensations that are oblivious to such happenings are therefore being challenged. We must ensure that this is not about winners and losers, but about nurturing sustainable communities everywhere.

Covid has also redefined our understanding of security. Until now, nations thought largely in military, intelligence, economic, and perhaps, cultural terms. Today, they will not only assign greater weight to health security but increasingly worry about trusted and resilient supply chains. The stresses of the Covid era brought out the fragility of our current situation. Additional engines of growth are needed to de-risk the global economy, as indeed is more transparency and market-viability.

Multilateral institutions have not come out well from this experience. Quite apart from controversies surrounding them, there was not even a pretense of a collective response to the most serious global crisis since 1945. Reforming multilateralism is essential to creating effective solutions.

Fashioning a robust response to the Covid challenge is set to dominate global diplomacy in 2021. In its own way, India has set an example. That it has done by defying prophets of doom and creating the health wherewithal to minimize its fatality rate and maximize its recovery rate. An international comparison of these numbers tells its own story. Not just that, India also stepped forward as the pharmacy of the world, supplying medicines to more than 150 countries, many as grants.

As our nation embarks on a mass vaccination effort, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s assurance that it would help make vaccines accessible and affordable to the world is already being implemented. The first consignments of Made in India vaccines have reached not only our neighbors like Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Mauritius, Seychelles and Sri Lanka but partners far beyond like Brazil and Morocco.

Other key global challenges today deserve similar attention. As a central participant in reaching the Paris agreement, India has stood firm with regard to combating climate change. Its renewable energy targets have multiplied, its forest cover has grown, its bio-diversity has expanded and its focus on water utilization has increased. Practices honed at home are now applied to its development partnerships in Africa and elsewhere.

The challenge of countering terrorism and radicalization is also a formidable one. As a society, long subjected to cross-border terrorist attacks, India has been active in enhancing global awareness and encouraging coordinated action. It will be a major focus in India’s diplomacy as a non-permanent member of the Security Council and in forums like FATF and G20.

Among the takeaways from the Covid experience has been the power of the digital domain. Whether it was contact tracing or the provision of financial and food support, India’s digital focus after 2014 has yielded impressive results. The “work from anywhere” practice was as strongly enhanced by Covid as the “study from home” one. All these will help expand the toolkit of India’s development programs abroad and assist the recovery of many partners.

2020 also saw the largest repatriation exercise in history – the return home of more than 4 million Indians. This alone brings out the importance of mobility in contemporary times.

A return to normalcy in 2021 will mean safer travel, better health, economic revival and digitally driven services. They will be expressed in new conversations and fresh understandings. The world after Covid will be more multi-polar, pluralistic and rebalanced. And India, with its experiences, will help make a difference.

This piece was first published by Newsweek.

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Latest News USA

Taliban threaten attacks if foreign troops stay past May 1

Kabul: Taliban militants have warned that they will resume attacks against foreign forces if they do not withdraw from Afghanistan by the May 1 deadline, in response to US President Joe Biden offering an unclear timetable on when American troops would be pulled back.

“All responsibility for the prolongation of war, death and destruction will be on the shoulders of those whom committed this violation,” DPA news agency quoted the insurgent group as saying in a statement.

The May 1 deadline is part of an agreement the US administration under former President Donald Trump signed with the Taliban in February 2020 in Doha.

It is now under review by the Biden administration.

Under the deal, the US promised to withdraw all US and international forces from Afghanistan.

In return, the Taliban vowed to cut ties with Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

Since the signing of the deal, there have been no attacks on US-led NATO forces in the country.

However, there is no tangible progress in ongoing peace talks between the representatives of the Taliban and the government that started in September 2020.

Recently, Biden said that he “can’t picture” US troops still being in Afghanistan next year, but he did not offer a precise timetable.

The Taliban called Biden’s remarks “vague” and emphasized that the Doha agreement is the best option to end the past 20 years of war.

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‘Repatriation of people during Covid shows diplomatic success’

New Delhi: Repatriation of more than 45 lakh people from various countries during the COVID-19 lockdown highlights the success of diplomacy of the current government, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar told Parliament.

Noting that seafarers are also a category that require special attention, the minister also said that crew change rules pose a challenge but even the issue with crew on the Chinese ports have been successfully resolved.

He further said that more than 45 lakh persons returned through the Vande Bharat flights run on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s direction. The Central government started the Vande Bharat Mission on May 7 to bring back stranded Indians due to coronavirus pandemic from foreign countries.

Quoting data, Jaishankar said that Kerala received the highest number of returnees who were staying in various foreign countries during the lockdown, or they were stuck due to the emergency restrictions across the world, including India, to avoid the spread of the pandemic.

In the process, the minister said that the government spent Rs 33.5 crore from the ‘Indian Community Welfare Fund’. “This largest repatriation would not have been possible without partner governments…This highlighted the success of diplomacy of the current government,” said Jaishankar.

He further stated that India has confirmed agreements for air bubbles with 27 nations so far, as people and students are returning back. The government is also urging partner governments to look at the employment of our citizens sympathetically, he said.

Under the Prime Minister’s directions, Jaishankar mentioned how India pushed its effort of providing food items and medicines in the Gulf region while interacting with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Oman.

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Terrorism gravest threat to mankind: India to UN rights panel

New Delhi:  India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar in his address to the UN Human Rights Council Tuesday warned that the threat of terrorism remains potent. “Terrorism continues to be one of the gravest threats to humankind. It is a crime against humanity and violates the most fundamental human right – namely, the right to life. As a long-standing victim, India has been in the forefront of the global action against terrorism,” he said.

This is the first time that an Indian foreign minister has addressed the Council. Calling for a coordinated global response to the challenges confronting human rights, Jaishankar said the situation was complicated by the pandemic and the need of the hour was for countries to come together against the challenges.

“This is possible only when there is a clear realization, including in bodies dealing with human rights, that terrorism can never be justified, nor its perpetrators ever equated with its victims.”

India, he said, was committed to protecting human rights and it was reflected in the handling of the pandemic both at home and abroad.

The minister also highlighted India’s help to more than 150 countries through the supply of vaccines, saying New Delhi has pledged to use its manufacturing capacity to make vaccines affordable and accessible to all.

“From Bangladesh to Brazil and from Morocco to Fiji, the pharmacy of the world is today supplying millions of vaccine doses to more than 70 countries.”

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‘Stop Vaccine Nationalism’: EAM Jaishankar to UNSC panel on Covid

United Nations: India, which has shipped “Made In India” Covid-19 vaccines to 25 countries, on Wednesday appealed the international community to stop “vaccine nationalism” and actively encourage “internationalism”, underlining that hoarding superfluous doses will defeat global efforts to attain collective health security and combat the deadly pandemic.

Addressing the UN Security Council, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar outlined key points for consideration of the international community to help the world put the COVID-19 pandemic decisively behind it and to emerge more resilient.

“Stop ‘vaccine nationalism”; indeed, actively encourage internationalism. Hoarding superfluous doses will defeat our efforts towards attaining collective health security,” he said, speaking at the open debate on the implementation of resolution 2532 (2020) on the cessation of hostilities in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jaishankar voiced concern that lack of global coordination regarding vaccine distribution will hit conflict affected areas and poorer countries the hardest.

He called on the international community to persist with the vaccination drive, along with other public health measures, to slow down the virus’s ability to infect new people and mutate further.

He said nations must collaborate with each other on genomic surveillance to track virus mutations and variants and exchange information in this regard in a regular and timely fashion.

He underscored that there is also need to effectively address public resistance to vaccines.

“Vaccine-related information must be contextual, empathetic, and culturally sensitive, while providing scientific and accurate facts to allay the fears and concerns of the public,” he said.

Addressing the Council, Jaishankar voiced concern that routine immunization programs have been thrown into disarray due to the pandemic, with about 80 million children in at least 68 countries at risk of diphtheria, measles and polio.

He called for urgent resumption of immunization programs across the world before children’s lives are threatened by other diseases.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, addressing the meeting, noted with concern that the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines is generating hope, but just 10 countries have administered 75 per cent of all COVID-19 vaccines.

Jaishankar told the Council that India, the pharmacy of the world, has been very much at the forefront of the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. India earlier provided critical medicines, diagnostic kits, ventilators and PPEs to more than 150 countries, about 80 of them on a grant basis.

“Today, the pharmacy of the world is stepping forward to meet the global vaccines challenge,” he said adding that two vaccines, including one indigenously developed, have already been granted emergency authorization. 30 more candidates are under various stages of development.”

He also announced a gift of 2 lakh doses of Covid vaccine for UN peacekeepers.

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‘Welcome your emergence as leading global power’: US calls India an important partner in Indo-Pacific

Describing India as one of the most important partners of the US in the Indo-Pacific region, the Biden Administration on Tuesday said that it welcomes India’s emergence as a leading global power and its role as a net security provider in the region. “India is one of the most important partners in the Indo-Pacific region to us. We welcome India’s emergence as a leading global power and its role as a net security provider in the region,” State Department Spokesperson Ned Price told reporters at his daily news conference.

Earlier in the day, he said, Secretary of State Tony Blinken spoke with his Indian counterpart, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, for the second time in less than a fortnight. During the call, the two leaders reaffirmed the strength of the US-India partnership and discussed issues of mutual concern, including the situation in Myanmar. Blinken expressed concern over the military coup and the importance of rule of law and the democratic process in Myanmar. They also discussed regional developments, including the value of US-India cooperation across the Indo-Pacific. ”Both sides look forward to expanded regional cooperation, including through the Quad, and to address the challenges of COVID and climate change, Price said.

Responding to a question, Price said the US-India Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership is both broad as well as multi-faceted. “We’ll continue to engage at the highest levels of our government to deepen cooperation on many fronts, and we are confident that the strong and upward trajectory of our partnership will, in fact, continue, he told reporters. India and the US, he said, cooperate on a wide range of diplomatic and security issues, including defence, nonproliferation, regional cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, counterterrorism, peacekeeping, the environment, health, education, technology, agriculture, space and oceans.

“We also work closely in international organizations, and we welcome India joining the Security Council in last month of this year for a two-year term,” Price said. The United States, he noted, also remains India’s largest and most important trading partner, with total bilateral trade increasing to $146 billion in 2019. US companies, of course, are a large source of India’s foreign direct investment, he said.

Price also highlighted the people-to-people ties which he said are broad and important. “Across this country, nearly four million Indian Americans call the United States home, contributing in their communities and proudly serving their country in uniform,” he said.

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