China says India welcome at anti-virus video meeting

BEIJING (AP) — China will hold a video conference with South Asian governments to discuss fighting the coronavirus and India is welcome to join, Beijing’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday, amid ongoing tensions with New Delhi over border clashes.

China organized Tuesday’s meeting with the governments of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, according to a ministry statement. In response to questions from reporters, a ministry spokesman said India was welcome to join.

India is being engulfed by a devastating surge of COVID-19 infections, spurred by insidious variants of coronavirus that have pushed the country’s health care system to the breaking point.

“The meeting is open to all South Asian countries, including India,” said the spokesman, Wang Wenbin. “We welcome India and all regional countries to take an active part in the meeting.”

China and India are locked in a standoff over a remote section of their border high in the Karakoram mountains after a clash last June left 20 Indian soldiers and at least four Chinese soldiers dead.

Wang said Beijing is working with Chinese companies to “actively meet” Indian needs for ventilators and anti-epidemic materials following the country’s spike in infections.

India, with a population of nearly 1.4 billion people, is facing a chronic shortage of space in its intensive care wards. Hospitals are experiencing oxygen shortages and many people are being forced to turn to makeshift facilities for mass burials and cremations.

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