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BRICS talks an opportunity for China to lead virus response


BRICS talks an opportunity for China to lead virus response

brics health minister
Photo: Twitter/DrSJaishankar

BRICS health officials will today participate in a virtual meeting to discuss an initiative to coordinate efforts on COVID-19 containment in South Asia.

China, which has capitalised on its early recovery to provide protective equipment and share knowledge internationally, will likely seek to take on a leadership role in this specific forum.

In the past three years, India and China have made little progress towards addressing underlying problems in their relationship, most of which stem from regional power politics. The COVID-19 outbreak has only exacerbated India’s long-standing strategic and economic concerns vis-à-vis China. Economically, India is concerned about over-reliance on Chinese imports, particularly in the pharmaceutical sector. Strategically, New Delhi is worried that Beijing will take advantage of the current crisis to gain even greater leverage over India’s neighbours, particularly Sri Lanka and Nepal, and isolate the South Asian giant.

Indeed, Indian officials are emphasising their support for reforms to multilateral institutions, such as the WHO, which has been accused of bowing to pressure from China during its response to the virus. The statements indicate that New Delhi will work to buffer against any attempts by Beijing to bolster its soft power at today’s summit.

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