NEW DELHI: India delivered a pointed message to China at the virtual summit of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China South Africa) foreign ministers on Tuesday. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar called for the “territorial integrity” of all states to be preserved. He said, “We strive for a fair, just, inclusive, equitable and representative multipolar international system, based on international law and UN Charter that recognises sovereign equality of all States and respects their territorial integrity.”
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi avoided any reference to that, merely expressing his sympathies about the pandemic and promising help. “As long it is needed by India, all BRICS partners including China will provide further support and assistance at any time and we are sure that India will certainly overcome the pandemic.”
The virtual meeting is laying the ground for the BRICS heads of state summit late this year to be hosted by India, the current chair. The ministers are expected to focus on the global pandemic, strengthening and reforming the multilateral system, countering terrorism and facilitating intra-BRICS co-operation especially through people-to-people contact.
South Africa’s foreign minister Grace Pandor warned that the priority today was to address the “global gap of vaccine access,” which could only be done through the waiver of TRIPS, an issue which is currently with the WTO.
“The agreement will allow the use of intellectual property, sharing of tech, its transfer and production of vaccines, therapeutics and wider distribution to achieve the ambition of none of us are safe until all of us are safe,” she said.
While these declarations are all very well, it cannot obscure the fact BRICS presents a divided house. Two members, India and China nearly went to war last year, and relations remain tense. Then Russia and China are at the receiving end of US wrath for a range of transgressions. Brazil’s President Bolsonaro has hinted that China was involved in biological warfare for economic gain, asking “Which country’s GDP has grown the most.”