External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Tuesday highlighted the key principles guiding the five-nation grouping BRICS and referred to international law and the UN Charter that recognises the sovereign equality of all states, and respects their territorial integrity. In his address at a virtual ministerial meeting of the BRICS, Jaishankar said desired change can be achieved only by conducting policies in accordance with these principles.
The meeting was attended by Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi and minister of international relations of South Africa Grace Naledi Mandisa Pandor and Brazilian foreign minister Carlos Alberto Franco. India hosted the meeting in its capacity as the chair of BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa).
In his opening remarks, Jaishankar said the BRICS has come a long way from the first time its foreign ministers met in New York in 2006 but the principles that guide the grouping remained consistent over the years. “We strive for a fair, just, inclusive, equitable and representative multipolar international system. It is one based on international law and the UN Charter, that recognizes the sovereign equality of all States, and respects their territorial integrity while displaying mutual respect for interests and concerns of all,” he said. “It is only by conducting our policies in accordance with these principles that we can expect to bring about the change we desire,” he added.
Jaishankar said the BRICS, has over the years evolved its unique model of engagement that is based on consensus and that its collective endeavour is also to ensure that global decision-making reflects contemporary realities. “To this end, we have identified four key deliverables for our chairship — reform of the multilateral system, counter-terrorism cooperation, using digital and technological solutions to achieve SDGs, and enhancing people-to-people cooperation,” he said. “I am very happy to note that we have made substantial progress on each of these areas in the past five months with the continued cooperation and support of our partners,” he added. The BRICS brings together five of the largest developing countries of the world, representing 41 per cent of the global population, 24 per cent of the global GDP and 16 per cent of the global trade.
In his comments, Wang expressed solidarity with India as it has been dealing with a severe second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. “Let me begin by expressing my sympathy to India over the severe impact of the new wave of COVID-19 infections. In these trying times, China stands in solidarity with India and all BRICS countries,” he said.
Wang said the BRICS now faces the profound and complex ramifications of the pandemic and changes unseen in a century. At the same time, he said opportunity may arise from the challenge. He also commended India for its efforts as BRICS chair to enhance cooperation among the member nations.
“Together we will take solid steps to deepen BRICS cooperation in political and security fields and lay a strong foundation for this year’s summit,” he said. In her remarks, Pandor talked about the proposal by South Africa and India at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) seeking a patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines.
“South Africa and India submitted a proposal to the WTO for a temporary waiver of certain aspects of TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) to facilitate wider access to technologies needed to produce vaccines, for treatment and diagnostics,” she said. The minister said there is a need to address the global gap of vaccine access to realise the ambition of “none of us are safe until all of us are safe” and leave behind the pandemic.
In his comments, Lavrov also expressed Russia’s solidarity with India in its fight against the pandemic.