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Statement delivered by Shri Vikas Swarup, Secretary (West) at 20th Commonwealth Foreign Affairs Ministers Meeting

October 14, 2020

Mr. Chairman, Madam Secretary General, Excellencies. I have the honour to represent India on behalf of our External Affairs Minister at this virtual Foreign Ministers meeting. Today, as the world grapples with the economic and social fallout of the Covid 19 pandemic, the values and core principles of Commonwealth become more relevant than ever.

India has already demonstrated that it can be a reliable partner for the world. Despite being severely impacted, we have kept our supply chains open during this pandemic and supplied medicines and equipment to more than 150 countries. This has only added to India’s reputation as the pharmacy to the world. As we move towards development of a COVID-19 vaccine, India (which accounts for 60% of global vaccine production) has already committed its vaccine production and delivery capacity to help the world in fighting this crisis.

In keeping with the commitment made by Hon’ble Prime Minister of India at CHOGM 2018, India has since opened a ‘Commonwealth Sub Window’ (of US$ 50 Million) to provide grant-in-aid assistance to Commonwealth members for projects related to SDG implementation and Climate Action.

In the first year of its existence, I am happy to inform you all that the Fund has approved a total of 11 projects in 9 Commonwealth countries. As part of the same, India is assisting seven Pacific Island countries with developing a climate early warning system. The project will enhance the ability of Pacific Island Countries to prepare, respond to and recover from climate-related disasters.

When it comes to Small States, Commonwealth needs to ensure that the international community understands their special problems and needs and does not apply a one size fits all approach. On our part, The International Solar Alliance (ISA), which India co-founded, aims to help nations address key common challenges in the scaling up of solar energy. Last year Commonwealth signed an MoU with ISA to expand solar power generation in Commonwealth countries.

India has also been engaging with SIDS more than ever before. Two summits under the Forum for India Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPC) have been organised since 2014 and in September, 2019 India organized the first India-CARICOM leader’s meeting. India has been, and will continue to be, committed to tackle the impact of climate change and will always support efforts of SIDS to achieve their developmental goals through both developmental and technical assistance. At this stage, given the limited resources of Commonwealth, we should try and focus on identifying simple yet practical initiatives that can make a real and immediate difference to the lives of ordinary citizens of our member states.

India has more than doubled its support to the Commonwealth Small States Offices Program in New York (from US$ 100,000 to US$ 250,000) and Geneva (from US$ 80,000 to US$ 150,000) to support Small States and SIDS engagement with international bodies like the UN and WTO.

Finally, as we adopt the Commonwealth Statement on Racism today, I would like to congratulate all members for this effort to combat racism and racial discrimination. It is also important to take robust and comprehensive steps to implement a zero tolerance policy against racism and ensure stricter actions against the perpetrators. We have always regarded racism and racial discrimination as the anti-thesis of everything that we as a nation stand for - equality, justice, peace and progress. As the world’s most uniquely diverse country, the principle of "Development for All” – Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas” has been a beacon for a globally acknowledged model of managing diversity in a most uniquely embracing manner.

As such, Mr. Chair, it was unfortunate that today’s Commonwealth Meeting was misused by one of our south Asian member state to pursue its own bigoted, ill-conceived, narrow and unilateral agenda on a multilateral platform.

When we heard them rant about a south asian state, we were left wondering why it was describing itself? And not surprisingly it came from a globally acknowledged promoter of state sponsored terrorism masquerading as an alleged victim of the same. We heard it from a country that brought genocide to South Asia 49 years back when it killed its own people.

This is also the same country that has the dubious distinction of becoming synonymous with the phrase "epicenter of terrorism” and hosting the largest number of terrorists proscribed by the United Nations.

The only dispute left in what it alleged today as a "disputed territory” is its own illegal occupation of certain parts, which sooner or later, it would have to vacate.

For such a country to hypocritically preach about religious minority groups elsewhere, while trampling itself upon the rights of its own indigenous minorities, was indeed most regrettable, and a blatant misuse of this august platform.

I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Government of Rwanda for being the host of CHOGM, to be held in 2021 at Kigali. We are glad to note that the themes of the CHOGM 2021 provide continuity to CHOGM 2018. Our efforts should be directed to build upon what we have achieved in the previous CHOGM to forge a better, secure, sustainable and prosperous future. On behalf of Government of India and its people, I am happy to extend our fullest support to Government of Rwanda for the successful organisation of CHOGM 2021.

Mr. Chair, as we all grapple our respective ways through the ongoing COVID crises, I would like to conclude by saying - that we need to turn this adversity into opportunity. The ineffectiveness of the existing multilateral architecture to respond meaningfully to the COVID19 crises, demonstrates that time is ripe for reforming multilateralism in its entirety. Commonwealth members need to extend their support to ensure more inclusive and effective multilateral institutions that govern global health, trade, climate and finance.

I would like to thank the United Kingdom, the Chair for hosting this meeting. As a founding member, India looks forward to contributing substantively to the initiatives of the Commonwealth. Thank you.

New Delhi
October 14, 2020

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