‘If there is a problem, then there will also be a solution for it.’ The ongoing vaccination drive across the world stands as an example of this statement. After several months of suffering from widespread pandemic, hope was losing its grip in the minds of the people. The outbreak of the COVID-19 halted many activities and impacted several sectors including education and tourism. Several scientists and experts were researching and trying to prepare a weapon to kill this deadly virus. Consequently, the hard work of the scientists bore fruit and the vaccines for Coronavirus were released. Similar to other nations, India also launched two vaccines for COVID 19 and also became the world’s number one vaccine distributor in the world under its vaccine diplomacy. With its Vaccine Maitri (Vaccine Friendship) initiative, India is looking to strengthen its bonds with different countries.
India has already rolled out a massive Coronavirus vaccination drive under two vaccines named Covishield by Serum Institute of India with AstraZeneca and Covaxin by Indian firm Bharat Biotech. The government is vaccinating frontline health workers on priority basis across the country. India had already gifted as well as sold millions of doses of covid vaccines to several countries. The Ministry of External Affairs had said that India would continue to supply Covid-19 vaccines to partner countries over the coming weeks and months in a phased manner.
Assistance of COVID 19 Vaccines Under Vaccine Diplomacy:
To provide assistance, India has provided around 56 lakh doses of Coronavirus vaccines to some countries as gift. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) stated that India has sent almost 100 lakh doses of vaccines under commercial supplies. In the coming weeks, Indian vaccines are scheduled to reach the Caribbean countries, Pacific Island states, Nicaragua, Mongoliaand many other regions.
The Indian government has greatly contributed to this development. The government granted funds to medical and research institutions so that their scientists can create vaccine as soon as possible. So far, India has supplied vaccines to many countries as gift including Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal and many more. India is one of the world’s biggest drug makers, and an increasing number of countries have already approached it for procuring coronavirus vaccines.
How Many Doses of COVID 19 Vaccines Are Sold and Gifted by India to Other Countries?
India rolled out a long list of countries which would be getting vaccines, some as grants and some as commercial exports. India sold Covid vaccines to several countries in a phased manner. In first phase India gifted vaccines to some of its immediate neighbours and in other phases it is covering other countries. India has sent vaccines to almost 15 countries and there would be another 25 countries that are in the pipeline to receive the vaccines including Brazil and Morocco. Here is the list of some countries to whom India gifted or sold doses of Covid Vaccines.
Maldives and Bhutan:
On January 20, India had sent 1,50,000 doses of Covishield vaccine to Bhutan and 1,00,000 doses to the Maldives. Following this, these two countries became the first nations to get vaccines from India. The President of Maldives Ibrahim Mohamed Solih said that arrival of the vaccine has renewed the hopes of the citizens. This step of the vaccination campaign might resolve the crisis of Covid 19. The Foreign Minister of Bhutan also expressed gratitude to the Indian Prime Minister for the generous gift. The Serum Institute of India (SII), manufactured the vaccines that were sent to these two countries.
India officially handed over 2 million doses of domestically produced Covishield vaccine to Bangladesh. The country received the vaccines at a crucial time when it witnessed a rise in the number of Coronavirus cases. Apart from this, the nation also plans to purchase another three crore doses of India-made coronavirus vaccine.
India under grant assistance in sync with its ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy handed over nearly one million doses of coronavirus vaccines to Nepal. Indian Ambassador to Nepal sends the vaccine consignment to Nepal’s Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli. The Prime Minister of Nepal received the consignment during a function at his residence in Baluwatar. Later, Nepal gave the conditional approval to use Oxford-AstraZeneca’s Covishield vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India.The approval coincided with the sixth meeting of the India-Nepal Joint Commission held in New Delhi
Myanmar and Seychelles:
Myanmar and Seychelles also received a consignment of Covishield vaccines as great assistance. India dispatched 1,00,000 doses of coronavirus vaccine to Myanmar on 22 January 2021. While on the same day India had sent 50,000 doses of vaccines manufactured by SII to Seychelles. In a tweet, Indian External Affairs Minister confirmed this news that India will keep extending support to its neighbours.
India dispatched 500,000 doses of Covishield vaccine to Sri Lanka. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said that they do not have to wait longer to receive some free vaccines from India. Sri Lanka after receiving the vaccines has approved the emergency use of the Covishield vaccine.
India has sent a consignment of COVID 19 vaccines to Afghanistan from Mumbai early morning on 19th February 2021. The officials of Afghanistan thanked India for its generous gift.
If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it is that global unity is important to fight against the diseases that can spread around the world with stunning speed. Not everyone predicted that the concept of global health diplomacy that includes vaccine diplomacy will prove to be a major foreign policy. Vaccine diplomacy is a program that includes the use of vaccines to increase a country’s diplomatic relationship. It’s another objective is to increase the influence of a country on other countries by sending health benefits as much as possible.
Is COVID 19 Vaccine Diplomacy a Step towards Friendship or a Worry for its Citizens?
India has increased its manufacturing capabilities to launch its own initiative that aimed at bolstering its global image as the “pharmacy of the world.” The World Health Organization (WHO) approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for use under its COVAX vaccination program. This program aims to provide equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines to poorer countries around the world. Since then, India has been supplying Covid vaccines around the world. India is offering these vaccines as a gift without any charge. This is a positive step towards building goodwill and promoting “Vaccine Maitri” among other countries. But, there is some worry that this “vaccine diplomacy” will come at a cost to vulnerable Indians. Following this, the global vaccine initiative taken by the Indian government has received a mixed response from its citizens.
Critics have asked several questions like: Is exporting of such two precious vaccine doses the right move? They also said that instead of sending ‘gifts’ to other countries, India should focus on speeding up the vaccination drive within the country itself. At one point India has the world’s second-highest caseload of coronavirus. The government has planned to immunize 300 million people by August 2021. The country began its vaccination drive on 16th January 2021. Up till now, it has vaccinated more than 10 million people including healthcare and frontline workers till 20th February 2021. So, it is very important to fasten the vaccination drive to meet the target.
How India will Benefit with COVID 19 Vaccine Diplomacy?
This Vaccine Maitri will strengthen the relations of India with its neighbouring countries. India’s vaccine outreach could play a role in repairing strained ties with its immediate neighbours such as Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. India and Nepal have made competing territorial claims over land that lies at a strategic three-way junction with China. India’s relations with Bangladesh and Sri Lanka were also not smooth and China has been a cause for this.
This step of India towards vaccine diplomacy will drum up international support and goodwill. Many countries including China have promised free doses of Covid vaccines to other countries. So, this initiation taken by the Indian Government is necessary not only to build an international image but also to provide a barricade against Chinese influence in the neighbourhood. Now, the Indian government has to plan and manage the distribution and manufacturing of vaccines in such a way that fulfills all the requirements of national and international needs.
Need to Fasten the Vaccination Campaign Within the Country:
As cases are surging in many states in last few days, India may face second wave of coronavirus. As per the data available with the central health ministry, over 85% cases out of the new cases are from 5 states. Maharashtra, Kerala and Tamil Nadu registered the highest number of cases on 21st February 2021. Now in the situation like this, government of India needs to fastened the vaccination programme. Although, the ongoing vaccination drive across the country is not being able to vaccinate the targeted number of people. If government could not be able to control the situation, then people again will suffer from difficulties. Restrictions might be imposed again on the common people and daily activities. So, Indian government should keep this situation at priority and try to vaccinate the maximum citizens as soon as possible.
The vaccination drive in many countries has proved that we are not far from ending this battle with Coronavirus. With this, every nation is trying to build its economy strong by supplying medical equipment, vaccines, masks, sanitizers, etc. India also joined the race and is trying to help poor countries to fight against the pandemic. India’s gesture of sharing its vaccine supplies with other countries stands in sharp contrast to several rich countries. India is one of the largest manufacturers of vaccines in the world. This COVID 19 Vaccine Diplomacy might prove beneficial to every aspect whether economical, political or internal.