India has approved the shipment of COVID-19 vaccines to Cambodia and plans to supply Mongolia and Pacific Island nations, officials said on Sunday (Feb 7) as supplies already arrived in Afghanistan as parts of the country’s expanding vaccine diplomacy.
Seeking to steal a march from rival Asian giant China, which has also vowed to supply vaccines to countries, Modi government has provided millions of doses of AstraZeneca vaccine to nearby countries, even as its domestic immunization program has just begun.
Modi government is using India’s strength as the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer for various diseases to strengthen regional relations and repress China’s political and economic supremacy.
India has urgently authorised 100,000 doses for Cambodia following a request to the Indian government from Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, India’s envoy to Phnom Penh said.
India approves 100,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines to Cambodia https://t.co/eIqnaGFNsD @devyani_K @PMOIndia @MEAIndia @MOS_MEA @DrSJaishankar @PeacePalaceKH @DDNewslive @IndianDiplomacy @dpa_mea @mygovindia
— India in Cambodia (@indembcam) February 6, 2021
Cambodia is a significant ally of China, which is expected to supply a million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, mainly produced by the state-owned company Sinopharm.
Made in India vaccines reach Afghanistan
In an expansive effort seen as pushing back against arch-rival Pakistan’s presence in the region, India has invested millions of dollars in Afghanistan over the years. “The vaccines are being provided on a grant basis,” a government source said.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Saturday that, “there are three groups of nations that are willing to get India’s vaccine-poor, price-sensitive nations and other nations that deal directly with pharmaceutical firms that produce the antidote.”
“I think right now we have already supplied to about 15 countries (as per my recollection). I would say there would be another about 25 countries that are at different stages in the pipeline. But what it has done is today it has put India on the map of the world.”
— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) February 7, 2021
The Minister said that the vaccine is being supplied on a grant basis to some poor countries, while some nations wanted it on a par with the price paid to the vaccine manufacturers by the Indian Government. Some countries have direct contracts and have negotiated commercially with Indian vaccine manufacturing firms.
To date, India has supplied 17 countries with 15.6 million doses of the vaccine, either through donations or through commercial contracts, said Anurag Srivastava, spokesman for the foreign ministry.
“Consignments will be sent in the coming weeks to Mongolia, the Caribbean countries, and the Pacific Island nations. External supplies are an ongoing process, depending on availability and domestic requirement,” he said.
India, which has the second-highest coronavirus caseload in the world, plans to immunize 300 million individuals by August. In the first two weeks of the campaign that started on January 16, it vaccinated around 3 million healthcare employees and would need to step up the pace to reach the summer target.