State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi of China, Acting Foreign Minister Mirwais Nab of Afghanistan, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen of Bangladesh, Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali of Nepal, Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi of Pakistan and Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena of Sri Lanka recently held a video conference on joint response to COVID and exchanged views on international and regional cooperation on pandemic response and post-COVID economic recovery.

The foreign ministers noted with satisfaction the concerted and productive efforts made by their countries since the start of COVID-19 to combat the virus and promote economic recovery in the spirit of overcoming challenges through cooperation and mutual assistance.

They pointed out that COVID-19 was a common enemy of humankind, and that countries should step up solidarity and cooperation to win the final victory over it. China expressed its readiness to provide continued medical supplies and technical assistance to participating countries to the best of its ability.

The foreign ministers reiterated their firm support to World Health Organisation's due role in the global cooperation against COVID-19 and acknowledged that tracing the origin of the virus was a matter of science and a global mission.

The foreign ministers expressed opposition to politicising the issue. The participating countries will strengthen cooperation to track COV- ID-19 mutation closely.

According to a press release issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs today, the foreign ministers agreed that vaccines, as a key weapon to defeat COVID-19, should be distributed in accordance with the principle of equity and justice.

They expressed that 'vaccine nationalism' would hinder the global efforts to defeat COVID-19 and underscored the need to avoid the 'immunity gap'.

The foreign ministers recognised the serious impact of COVID-19 on the global economy and its complex implications for the sustainable development of all countries.

They agreed to deepen Belt and Road cooperation, open their borders under the premise of pandemic prevention and control for smooth trade, keep the industrial and supply chains stable and secure, and give a stronger boost to economic recovery and the improvement of people's lives.

According to MoFA, China agreed to support the participating countries to overcome the impact of COVID-19 on their economies through enhanced level of economic cooperation and collaboration.

The foreign ministers stressed the importance of strengthening cooperation in poverty reduction, food security and other non-traditional security fields to protect the livelihood of people with special attention to the most vulnerable groups.

To facilitate personnel exchanges against the backdrop of COVID-19, they agreed to discuss the possibility of mutual recognition of digital health codes.

To push forward practical cooperation in relevant fields, China announced its decision to establish a China-South Asian Countries Emergency Supplies Reserve, set up a China-South Asian Countries Poverty Alleviation and Cooperative Development Centre, and hold a China-South Asian Countries E-commerce Cooperation Forum on Poverty Alleviation in Rural Areas. The other participating countries expressed support. The foreign ministers also agreed to make these mechanisms inclusive, transparent, sustainable and demand-driven.

MoFA informed that the foreign ministers agreed to closely follow the development of COVID-19 situation in India, and expressed their willingness to provide needed support through respective channels in consultation with India.

They also decided to maintain the momentum of cooperation among the six countries, hold consultations, expand cooperation areas and lend impetus to future cooperation.

A version of this article appears in the print on April 30, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.