BEIJING: China, which is hosting a meeting of Foreign Ministers of some South Asian countries to deal with the COVID-19 situation, said on Tuesday that the virtual conference is open to all countries in the region, including India.
Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are invited to the virtual Foreign Ministerial level meeting being hosted on Tuesday by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. India, Maldives and Bhutan are conspicuously absent from the meeting.
Asked why India has not been invited to the meeting, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a media briefing that "China follows the spirit of openness and inclusiveness".
"This meeting is open to South Asian countries, including India. We welcome the participation of all countries," he said.
This meeting is part of China’s cooperation with South Asian countries and regional and international cooperation to fight the coronavirus pandemic, he said.
"We follow an open attitude and we are open for the participation of other South Asian countries,” Wang said.
About China’s offer of extending support and assistance to India, which is currently experiencing a virulent second wave of coronavirus attack, Wang said, "China has expressed early on its willingness to provide India with support and help".
"We are promoting Chinese companies to meet India’s procurement demands for oxygen concentrators and other anti-epidemic supplies. We are ready to work with India through multiple ways to provide assistance. We believe India will finally defeat the virus,” he said.
China reported the first COVID-19 case in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019 and since then the deadly disease has snowballed into a pandemic, affecting more than 147,925,000 people and over 3,122,300 deaths worldwide.
About Tuesday’s meeting the spokesman said, "as we speak, the virus is still spreading across the world. Against such a backdrop, China proposed to hold a video conference to demonstrate regional resolution to fight against COVID-19, deepen practical cooperation, consolidate momentum for economic recovery and safeguard outcomes and livelihood improvements”.
"We hope that it will be a successful one and inject a new impetus to regional efforts to vanquish the virus and realise steady development,” he said.
"This meeting extends existing efforts by China at relevant South Asian countries to jointly fight COVID-19 and jointly resume socio-economic development,” he said, adding that it also stands as an integral part of international, regional anti-epidemic cooperation.
"The meeting will be held under the principles of openness, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation. Other interested countries are welcome to participate,” he said.
On China’s organising the meeting of the South Asian countries to combat COVID-19, Wang said that since the outbreak of COVID-19 China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh have been “standing together, providing assistance to one another and contributing to regional response”.
Since July 2020, China has hosted a series of meetings on combating COVID-19 including one meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Vice Foreign Ministers of China, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh and another fighting coronavirus and poverty alleviation at Director-General level of all the six countries, Wang said.
"The meetings effectively enhanced cooperation among countries to fight the virus and resume economic activities," he said.