India

India sends 3 mn vaccine doses to neighbours, Pak gets some from China

China has offered 500,000 doses of a Coronavirus vaccine to its ally Pakistan, an apparent response to the rolling out of supplies by India for its neighbours and key partners, including three million doses delivered to Bangladesh and Nepal on Thursday.

Two Indian flights carried two million doses of Covishield to Dhaka and one million doses to Kathmandu, and people familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity that Seychelles and Myanmar were set to receive 50,000 doses and 1.5 million doses respectively on Friday.

Six countries – Bhutan, the Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Seychelles and Myanmar – are part of India’s initial rollout of vaccines as grant assistance. There are also plans to supply doses to Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Mauritius.

After a phone conversation with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi announced on Thursday that Beijing had gifted 500,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine as aid.

“I want to give the nation the good news that China has promised to immediately provide 500,000 doses of vaccine to Pakistan by January 31,” Qureshi said. “They (China) have said you can send your airplane and immediately airlift this drug,”

Qureshi quoted Wang as saying that Pakistan was the first country China thought of assisting with vaccines in view of their “all-weather strategic relationship”. He also said China would supply more than a million doses by February.

Pakistan is currently the world’s most populous country that hasn’t rolled out a vaccination programme. It is also the only country in the region to have approved the Sinopharm vaccine for emergency use. The approval for Sinopharm earlier this week came days after Pakistan cleared the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The two million doses gifted by India to Bangladesh were handed over by Indian envoy Vikram Doraiswami to foreign minister AK Abdul Momen and health minister Zahid Maleque in Dhaka. This was the single largest consignment of vaccines provided by India to any country so far.

Momen said India had stood by Bangladesh during the Liberation War of 1971 as well as the pandemic that had impacted the world. “This proves the true friendship between Bangladesh and India,” he said.

India’s vaccine assistance reached Nepal within a week of a request made by visiting Nepalese foreign minister Pradeep Gyawali during a visit to New Delhi last week. While handing over the supplies to Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli in Kathmandu, Indian envoy Vinay Mohan Kwatra said this reflected “India’s Neighbourhood First policy in action”.

Observers have noted that India speedily rolled out millions of doses as aid despite the massive requirements of its own vaccination drive that began on January 16. The assistance came against the backdrop of China’s efforts to forge cooperation in fighting Covid-19 within South Asia by holding meetings with Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh since last year.

Former ambassador Vishnu Prakash lauded the alacrity with which the Indian government had responded to the needs of its neighbours, saying it was in line with its efforts to be the first responder in all emergency situations.

“This is my definition of the Neighbourhood First policy. It is the kind of policy and approach that we need to follow and its shows the difference between India and other countries. I can’t think of such selflessness by any other country in an hour of need.”

Observers have noted that India speedily rolled out millions of doses as aid despite the massive requirements of its own vaccination drive that began on January 16. The assistance came against the backdrop of China’s efforts to forge cooperation in fighting Covid-19 within South Asia by holding meetings with Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh since last year.

Former ambassador Vishnu Prakash lauded the alacrity with which the Indian government had responded to the needs of its neighbours, saying it was in line with its efforts to be the first responder in all emergency situations.

“This is my definition of the Neighbourhood First policy. It is the kind of policy and approach that we need to follow and its shows the difference between India and other countries. I can’t think of such selflessness by any other country in an hour of need.”

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