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NEW DELHI : India will attend a key meeting of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) foreign ministers later this month to discuss the economic fallout of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, which has infected more than two million people worldwide and led to more than 138,000 deaths in about four months.

People familiar with the developments, however, did not give any further detail about the meeting that would bring to the table some of the large emerging economies of the world, including Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, severely affected by the covid-19 pandemic.

The BRICS nations had also participated in a virtual summit of G-20 leaders last month. The foreign ministers’ meet is also expected to happen via video link.

There is a need to keep such political configurations working to see if cooperation at various levels can be developed, given the impact of covid-19 on the global economy, according to analysts.

The International Monetary Fund has projected global growth in 2020 to fall to minus 3% because of the impact of the pandemic on economic activities across the world, as countries enforced stringent social distancing norms.

“This development has huge consequences on global trade, economy and everything else, so there is a need to develop a consensus," said former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal.

“It is necessary at the BRICS level given that the thinking of Russia and China, and even South Africa, is not entirely in line with that of the US. India can play a bridging role here," Sibal said.

New Delhi’s position is not the same as Russia and China, or the US, Sibal said. “It is useful for us to be able to discuss and develop our thinking in this forum and others," he said. India has participated in several multilateral meetings on the pandemic, including the one involving South Asian heads of government and between senior officials of the Indo-Pacific region.

India has been playing the role of a “reliable global supplier" of medicines, and has sent shipments of hydroxycholoroquine (HCQ), seen as a useful treatment option for patients with covid-19 complications, to 55 countries. India was exporting the drug to countries such as the US, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Russia, South Africa and Australia, while the medicine was being sent as a grant to countries in South Asia, the Dominican Republic, and Uganda, said one of the people mentioned above said.

Around 25 Indian nationals had died of covid-19 abroad, while 3,336 Indians across more than 50 countries have so far been tested positive, the person said. A cell set up in the Indian foreign ministry to answer queries and doubts from Indians stranded abroad had responded to 18,000 emails so far, and answered over 5,000 phone calls, he said. Around 2,000 grievances have been resolved, he said.

“Our advice (to Indians stranded abroad) has always been to stay put. Times are difficult. It is a matter of having patience. Contact the embassies and high commissions wherever they are, seek their help, support and guidance .. of course these are difficult times, we need the understanding of our people that this too will pass," he said. The cell, which works 24x7, was set up a month ago to ensure inter-departmental and inter-ministerial coordination. It is headed by an additional secretary rank officer, Dammu Ravi.

The covid cell has also facilitated the evacuation of more than 35,000 foreign nationals from India, said the person mentioned above.

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