BRICS, a group of countries comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, on Tuesday supported a proposal to temporarily waive the patent on coronavirus vaccines. India and South Africa had moved a proposal on the matter in the World Trade Organization in October.

At the meeting, India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said the group of countries aimed to achieve a just, inclusive, equitable, multipolar international system, which recognises the sovereign equality of all states and respects territorial integrity.

The foreign ministers reasserted the need for “sharing of vaccine doses, transfer of technology, development of local production capacities and supply chains for medical products, promotion of price transparency”. The countries also called for exercising restraint in the implementation of action that could disrupt the flow of vaccines, healthcare items and essential inputs.

“The ministers reaffirmed the need to use all relevant measures during the pandemic, including supporting ongoing consideration in WTO [World Trade Organization] on a Covid-19 vaccine Intellectual Property Rights waiver and the use of flexibilities of the TRIPS [Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights] agreement and the Doha Declaration on TRIPS Agreement and Public Health,” a joint statement of the ministers read.

India hosted the virtual meeting as the chair and it was attended by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, South Africa’s Minister of International Relations Grace Naledi Mandisa Pandor and Brazilian Foreign Minister Carlos Alberto Franco.

The foreign minsters also highlighted the need to promote initiatives that are focused on ensuring timely, affordable, and equitable access to healthcare during the pandemic. They also stressed on the need to “support the achievement of universal health coverage including preventive measures and actions”.

The United States came under intense pressure to waive protections for vaccine manufacturers, especially amid criticism that rich nations were hoarding Covid-19 jabs.

In April, it was made public that a group of over 170 world leaders and Nobel Prize winners urged US President Joe Biden to support the waiver. But the United States and several other countries blocked negotiations on the proposal at the trade body.

However, on May 5, the Biden administration announced its support for waiving patent protections for Covid-19 vaccines.

On terrorism and cross-border movement

On Tuesday, the foreign minister also released a joint statement, saying that the countries had resolved to tackle all forms of terrorism and its manifestations, including cross-border movement. The countries pledged to step up joint efforts in building support for an India-backed Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism, reported PTI.

India’s call to respect territorial integrity comes on the backdrop of talks related to the situation at the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh. In April, China had refused to withdraw its troops from Hot Springs and Gogra Post, two of the friction points between New Delhi and Beijing in Eastern Ladakh.

Beijing’s refusal came even as India and China agreed to expeditiously resolve their outstanding matters at the 11th round of Corps Commander-level meeting held earlier in April. The two countries have completed disengagement at Pangong Tso in Ladakh.

India and China had agreed to maintain stability in Eastern Ladakh and avoid any new incidents during the talks. Border tensions between the two countries flared up in June last year after clashes between Indian and Chinese soldiers in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley. Twenty Indian soldiers were killed in the clashes. China identified the casualties on its side only in February this year, saying that four soldiers died.

A breakthrough in the deliberations between the two countries came only in February this year as Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh informed Parliament about the disengagement agreement reached between India and China.