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India intensifies engagement with Indo-Pacific partners as Covid-19 rages on

Members of the Indo-Pacific strategic setup have been holding discussions since 20 March to discuss collective safety, as well as real-time communication.

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New Delhi: India has intensified its engagement with countries such as the US, Australia, South Korea, Japan, New Zealand and Vietnam under the Indo-Pacific strategic setup in an effort to fight the Covid-19 pandemic

Discussions among the countries since 20 March have not just centred on working towards collective safety, but also on overhauling international institutions to reflect “contemporary realities”, sources told ThePrint.

Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla has been a part of weekly telephonic conversations among the Indo-Pacific countries that have been taking place since 20 March. The practice was initiated by US Deputy Secretary of State Steven Biegun.

According to official sources, these conversations have brought out the need for real-time communication among partner countries on evolving challenges and learning from each other’s best practices. There is a general consensus, the sources said, that no one can be safe and secure unless all are safe and secure.

The countries have also stressed the “need for a new template of globalisation and for international institutions to reflect contemporary realities”, the sources added.

Also Read: India, Australia on same page on strengthening WHO, Indo-Pacific plans key: Envoy O’Farrell

‘Sharing ideas’

The countries involved in the conversations have shared several ideas on dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic and to mitigate its impact, while also discussing individual efforts, the sources said.

There is a “shared interest”, the sources added, in carrying forward engagement on medium-term planning for safe and sustained economic recovery and growth in national economies, resilience in vital supply chains, and speedy development and dissemination of vaccines and therapeutics. This, the country’s leaders believe, will contribute to a peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific region and benefit the world at large. 

“The idea is to share ideas and best practices among these countries in the Indo-Pacific region for responding to the unique and complex challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic,” said a source.

The discussions, which are expected to continue until the pandemic stabilises, have “helped shape informed and coordinated responses” to a number of issues ranging from supplies of life-saving medicines and protective health equipment, to the extension and facilitation of visas for nationals caught in the pandemic, and their repatriation.

Earlier this week, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar took part in a videoconference led by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. It also included foreign ministers of South Korea, Israel, Australia, New Zealand and Vietnam. 

According to sources, the call was aimed at planning a strategy to make China accountable for the pandemic with greater transparency in information dissemination, including making multilateral institutions such as the World Health Organization (WHO) more robust in dealing with such pandemics.

Also Read: Thank You India: US could reinstate GSP trade benefits in return for HCQ, paracetamol


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