China offers S.Asian countries help with accessing COVID-19 shots

  • China hosts video-conference with 5 South Asian nations
  • India was invited to meet, China says, but didn't attend
  • India-China tensions high over Himalayan border dispute

BEIJING, April 27 (Reuters) - China said on Tuesday it had offered help to South Asian countries in accessing COVID-19 vaccines but India did not attend a regional video-conference on the matter, although it is currently suffering the world's worst wave of the pandemic.

China's State Councillor and foreign minister Wang Yi hosted the conference attended by Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, to which China's neighbour and regional rival India was also invited, the Chinese foreign ministry said.

There was no immediate comment from the Indian government.

Wang told his conference counterparts Beijing was willing to set up emergency supply reserves with South Asian countries in the fight against COVID-19, a ministry statement said.

Earlier in the day a ministry spokesman said the meeting was open to other countries in the region when asked why India - which has been locked in a tense Himalayan border dispute with China in recent months - was not on the list of attendees. read more

China expresses its "deep sympathy for the raging epidemic in India and extends its sincere condolences to the Indian people," Wang said in a ministry statement, adding Beijing was ready to provide support and assistance at any time.

India reported record infection numbers from Friday through Monday and saw its death toll approach 200,000, had been invited to attend the meeting, Wang said, without stating a reason for its absence. read more

Reporting by Yew Lun Tian; writing by Tom Daly; Editing by Andrew Heavens

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