Minister of external affairs S Jaishankar. (File photo)
Minister of external affairs S Jaishankar. (File photo)

India, Australia, France call for equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines

The three countries pledged to work together to achieve a free, open, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific, and to support freedom of navigation, peaceful resolution of disputes, democratic values, and respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.
UPDATED ON MAY 07, 2021 02:03 AM IST

India, France and Australia have said fair and equitable access to safe and affordable Covid-19 vaccines and treatments globally will be crucial for collective recovery from the pandemic, especially for people in the most vulnerable countries.

The three countries also pledged during their first trilateral ministerial dialogue to work together to achieve a free, open, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific, and to support freedom of navigation, peaceful resolution of disputes, democratic values, and respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.

India’s external affairs minister S Jaishankar, France’s foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Australia’s foreign minister Marise Payne met in London late on Tuesday on the sidelines of the G7 foreign ministers’ meeting. The talks were held in-person before the Indian delegation began self-isolating after two members tested positive.

The trilateral ministerial dialogue was originally scheduled to be held in New Delhi on the margins of the Raisina Dialogue but was deferred after Payne called off her visit to India amid a massive surge in Coronavirus infections in India.

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While discussing ways to enhance trilateral cooperation to cope with challenges linked to the pandemic, the three foreign ministers called for “fair and equitable access to high quality, safe, effective and affordable Covid-19 vaccines and treatments globally”, according to a joint statement issued on Wednesday.

This, they said, will be a central factor in collective recovery, especially for people in vulnerable situations, including women and girls in the most vulnerable countries, particularly in Africa.

The India side thanked France and Australia for their support for India’s Covid-19 response and the ministers also recognised India’s contribution to supplying vaccines to various countries, bilaterally and through multilateral mechanisms such as the WHO-backed COVAX facility.

France and Australia have rushed a range of equipment, including large oxygen generation plants, oxygen concentrators and ventilators, to help India cope with a severe shortage of oxygen as daily infections crossed the 400,000-mark in recent days.

The three ministers agreed to deepen cooperation on maritime safety and security in the Indo-Pacific, and welcomed the holding of a trilateral information-sharing workshop on maritime domain awareness at India’s Information Fusion Centre for the Indian Ocean Region, where France and Australia have assigned liaison officers. The three sides also encouraged information-sharing between humanitarian and disaster relief agencies of the three countries.

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The ministers also emphasised the importance of a coordinated approach to deal with illegal unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, which they described as a “trans-boundary and transnational problem that affects the biological sustainability of relevant fish stocks and impacts the livelihoods of fishers...and coastal communities in developing countries”.

The three sides also agreed that the Covid-19 crisis had demonstrated the need for strong multilateral institutions underpinned by openness, accountability and balance that can deliver for all countries. They said they were committed to a reformed, UN-centred multilateralism and Australia and France reaffirmed their support for India’s permanent membership of the UN Security Council.

The ministers also committed to intensify coordination at multilateral institutions such as the World Health Organization, standard-setting bodies and the UN Human Rights Council. They also decided to work closely with the G20, with particular focus on economic recovery and the response to Covid-19.

In the field of counter-terrorism, the ministers agreed to work together through the upcoming “No Money for Terror” ministerial conference and pointed to the importance of cooperation to address risks to international security from malicious cyber activity, and to ensure that technologies critical to shared interests in security and prosperity are designed and developed in line with public safety and democratic values.

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