India initiates vaccine diplomacy

India initiates vaccine diplomacy

ndia, the biggest vaccine manufacturer, has reached out to neighbouring countries by shipping millions of doses despite its domestic immunization programme being at a nascent stage.

While it plans to supply Covid-19 vaccine to Mongolia and Pacific Island states, New Delhi has already supplied 5 lakh AstraZeneca PLC boosters to Afghanistan besides similar consignments to Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives as part of its Vaccine Friendship initiative.

New Delhi has also approved 1,00,000 doses to Cambodia on an urgent basis. Experts view the efforts to boost regional ties is aimed at pushing back rival Asian giant China’s political and economic dominance.

Cambodia is an important ally of China, which is expected to provide a million Covid-19 vaccine doses, mainly developed by state firm Sinopharm. The Modi government was quick to respond to the vaccine request by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“The supply has been assured through the Serum Institute of India despite innumerable competing requests from partner countries and our commitment to our domestic population,” said Devyani Khobragade, India’s envoy to Phnom Penh.

“The vaccines are being provided on a grant basis,” a government source said.

So far, India supplied 15.6 million doses of the vaccine to 17 countries either through donations or commercial contracts, said foreign ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava.

Consignments will be sent to Mongolia, Caribbean countries and Pacific Island states in the coming weeks, he said.

“External supplies are an ongoing process, depending on availability and domestic requirement,” he said.

India, which has the world’s second-highest caseload of coronavirus, plans to immunise 300 million people by August. It vaccinated about 3 million healthcare workers in the first two weeks of the campaign that began on January 16 and will need to step up the pace to meet the summer target.

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