Foreign Ministers of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) nations held a virtual meeting on Tuesday to discuss the impact of the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic and decided to set up a $15 billion fund for member nations to revive the economy.
The leaders exchanged views on possible joint measures to be taken by the member states to counter COVID-19 and overcome the financial, trade, economic and social consequences of the pandemic.
The meeting was held at the initiative of Russia with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov chairing the ‘extraordinary meeting of the BRICS Ministers of Foreign Affairs/International Relations’ as Russia is the chair of BRICS for 2020.
The group decided to create a special corpus of loans through the New Development Bank or the BRICS bank to help revive the economies of BRICS nations.
“We decided to set up a special loan instrument to finance projects of economic rebuilding of BRICS countries. In total we decided to allocate upto US $15 billion. This can be a very good foundation to revive the economic activities,” announced foreign minister Lavrov during the media interaction following the virtual meeting with his BRICS counterparts.
The BRICS is considering a proposal to set up a Vaccine Research and Development Centre as part of efforts to fight global pandemic.
External Affairs Minister of India, S Jaishankar, highlighted the initiatives and various decisive steps taken early by India in the wake of the pandemic including through Aarogya Setu Citizen App and Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package.
Speaking of the steps taken by India, a statement of the Ministry of External Affairs said, “He apprised the BRICS Foreign Ministers about the initiative to coordinate efforts to contain COVID-19 in South Asia, and creation of COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund by the SAARC countries. India is providing pharma assistance to nearly 85 nations, including many countries in Africa, on a grant basis, to support their response to the pandemic. This has been widely welcomed.”
Jaishankar also asserted that the coronavirus pandemic could cause a serious “disruption” to supply chains and employment.
“Economic activity across sectors has been negatively impacted leading to loss of jobs and livelihoods. He emphasized that we need to provide support to businesses, especially MSMEs, to tide over the crisis and ensure livelihoods are not lost,” said the MEA statement.
China on its part tried to dismiss the allegations of US that Beijing was not transparent in its COVID-19 response.
Speaking at the conference, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said, “The global community should never be distracted in its collaborative response by finger-pointing or the blame game, still less should we allow new tensions and divisions to be created as a result of politicisation or stigmatisation.”
To a question on European Union’s External Action Service (EEAS) report saying Russia and China bear responsibility for spreading misinformation about COVID-19, foreign minister Lavrov called it “baseless”.
“As far as the EU External Affairs agency is concerned. Such reports about misinformation that is allegedly spread about developments around Covid-19, I do not want to comment on that. These are not facts. These allegations are baseless. We have got used to that since our western colleagues try to find some common motives in speculations and conjectures about threats from Russia,” he said.
China also mentioned the fact that it donated additional funds to the WHO after the US withdrew its funds.
“On top of paying its assessed contributions to the WHO on time and in full, China donated US$20 million to the WHO, and this was followed by another donation of US$30 million announced just a few days ago,” minister Wang Yi said.
During the conference, Russia also lauded the role of India in tackling the novel coronavirus crisis. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov thanked India for ensuring the repatriation of 2000 stranded Russian nationals. According to him, this was a clear confirmation of the friendly ties and “privileged strategic partnership” between the two countries.
A virtual meeting of BRICS Health Officials on COVID-19 pandemic is likely to be held on May 7 to take the discussion forward.
The Tuesday meeting of the foreign ministers was attended by Russia’s Sergey Lavrov, who chaired the meeting, S Jaishankar, Ambassador Ernesto Araújo of Brazil, Chinese FM Wang Yi, Grace Naledi Pandor, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of the Republic of South Africa.
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