By Qi Zhenhong/Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka
On April 27th, the foreign ministers of China, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh held a video conference on Covid-19 response and issued a joint statement. With a new wave of Covid-19 pandemic spreading in the whole world and rapid deterioration of pandemic in South Asia, it is very necessary and timely for the foreign ministers of China and five South Asian countries to hold this conference. A series of important outcomes of this conference show the international community the firm determination of the six countries to join hands in fighting against the pandemic, and a grand blueprint jointly drawn by the six countries to boost the economy and improve people’s livelihood, which is very encouraging. I would like to take this opportunity to share some views:
Firstly, Covid-19 is a common enemy of humankind, and solidarity and cooperation are the top priority and the only correct choice to overcome the pandemic. As President Xi Jinping pointed out, “The Covid-19 pandemic warned the world in a special form that human beings are a community of shared future, honor and disgrace. No country can be immune to major crises, and unity and cooperation are the correct way for the world.”
China and South Asian countries have a long-term traditional friendship and are good neighbors and partners linked by mountains and rivers. At the early stage of pandemic in China last year, countries in South Asia extended a helping hand to China in various ways. Sri Lanka expressed firm support to China throughout the country, and the Chinese people remember it in their hearts.
At present, a new wave of pandemic is spreading around the world including South Asia. The reason for China to host this Foreign Ministers’ conference is to provide assistance to regional countries as much as possible while its own pandemic prevention and control is still under tremendous pressure. China, with it’s efforts, is sincerely willing to provide the people of South Asia with more confidence, hope and tangible help in their fighting again COVID-19, which demonstrated China’s sincere desire and concrete measures to promote the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.
Secondly, vaccine cooperation is a key weapon to defeat COVID-19. The statement reiterated the important role vaccines play in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa also stressed that only vaccines could stop the pandemic. And that vaccines be distributed in accordance with the principle of equity and justice, opposition to “vaccine nationalism” and the need to avoid the “immunity gap” should become an international consensus.
To better act on President Xi Jinping’s important statement on making the vaccines a global public good, China has already joined the COVAX(COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access), and decided to provide 10 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to meet the urgent needs of developing countries. So far, China has provided vaccine aid to over 80 countries and 4 international organizations, exported vaccines to more than 40 countries, and been cooperating with more than 10 nations in vaccine research, development and production. 600,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccines donated by China arrived Colombo last month, and I believe it will play an essential part in Sri Lanka’s fight against the pandemic soon. And China will continue to carry out vaccine cooperation including vaccine production with the other five countries in a flexible way.
Thirdly, Economic revival and improvement of people’s livelihood will be priorities of our cooperation. Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena noted in his speech “pursuing joint responses to COVID-19 pandemic and advancing economic recovery and poverty alleviation amongst our countries are an important priority, and would remain our continued focus in the future”, which is highly appreciated by the other five countries. To achieve such goal in the post-pandemic era, in the statement, the Foreign Ministers agreed to deepen Belt and Road cooperation, keep the industrial and supply chains stable and secure, and strengthen cooperation in poverty reduction, food security and other fields. And China also announced its decision to establish a China-South Asia Emergency Supplies Reserve, set up a China-South Asia Poverty Alleviation and Cooperative Development Center and hold a China-South Asia E-commerce Cooperation Forum on Poverty Alleviation in Rural Areas, and gained full support from all other five countries.
Moving forward, China will continue to promote elevating of the cooperation for more tangible results and benefits of all people in six countries. And we are happy to see that the Foreign Ministers agreed to institutionalize the cooperation among the six countries, hold regular consultations and expand cooperation areas.
Invitation Extended To India
Fourthly, the mechanism of the foreign ministers’ conference among six countries is of openness, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation, and always open for regional countries and other countries to participate. State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that, an invitation has also been extended to India. China expresses the deep sympathies for the raging pandemic in India and extends its sincere condolences to the Indian people. China is willing to provide support and assistance to the Indian people at any time in accordance with the needs of India.
China will uphold the concept of a community with a shared future for mankind, stand firmly with the people of South Asian countries, and join hands to fight COVID-19 until all countries in the region finally overcome the pandemic. The foreign ministers closely follow the development of COVID-19 situation in India, and expressed their willingness to provide needed support to India through respective channels.
Sri Lankan Situation
Recently, a new wave of epidemics in Sri Lanka has been raging, and I also deeply feel the tremendous pressure this “Pearl of the Indian Ocean” facing. I believe that under the strong leadership of President Gotabaya, with the joint efforts of the industrious, brave, united, and wise Sri Lankan people, with the help of China and other friendly neighbors in South Asia, we will overcome the pandemics successfully at an early date. Let us work tirelessly for this goal together.