India to send Covid-19 vax to other countries again?

Deuba says Modi promised early supply of Made-in-India vaccines to Nepal

India supplied 24.48 lakh Covid-19 vaccines to Nepal between January 21 and March 5 this year

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) and Nepali Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba. Credit: AFP Photo

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday assured his new counterpart in Kathmandu, Sher Bahadur Deuba, of “early supply” of anti-Covid-19 vaccines from India to Nepal, the neighbouring country’s government stated after a phone-call between the two leaders.

Modi’s assurance to Deuba of “early supply” of Covid-19 vaccines indicated that his government was planning to restart sending out the “Made-in-India” Covid-19 vaccines to Nepal. New Delhi had suspended supplying vaccines to foreign countries after the brutal second Covid-19 wave swept India and shortage of jabs available for inoculation programme within the country came to the fore.

“We shared views on further strengthening bilateral ties. PM Modi assured early supply of Covid Vaccines to Nepal,” Deuba posted on Twitter.

I had cordial telephone conversation with Prime Minister @narendramodi this afternoon. We shared views on further strengthening bilateral ties. PM Modi assured early supply of Covid Vaccines to Nepal. I thanked him for his warm words of congratulations.

— Sher Bahadur Deuba (@DeubaSherbdr) July 19, 2021

The Modi Government also drew flak from the opposition parties for sending out Made-in-India Covid-19 vaccines to foreign countries instead of first ensuring availability of adequate number of doses for people of the country.

India supplied 24.48 lakh Covid-19 vaccines to Nepal between January 21 and March 5 this year – 11 lakh doses as grant, 10 lakh as commercial export and 3.48 lakh through COVAX initiative launched by the World Health Organization for equitable distribution of the antidote against SARS-CoV-2 infection.

No vaccine was sent out over the past few months as the government prioritized domestic inoculation programme.

Nepal is one of the countries where China has been trying to elbow out India to spread its geopolitical influence. After New Delhi had to suspend its Vaccine-Maitri initiative, Beijing stepped in to fill the void and so far donated to Nepal 1.8 million anti-Covid-19 vaccines developed by Sinopharm of China.

During a recent courtesy call with Deuba, Beijing’s envoy to Kathmandu, Hou Yanqi, in fact promised the Nepalese new Prime Minister that China would donate another 1.6 million doses of vaccines to Nepal soon.

Beijing has also been supplying vaccines to other countries in the neighbourhood of India, including Bhutan, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and of course Pakistan.

“In a cordial telephone conversation today, Prime Minister of India @narendramodi congratulated Prime Minister @DeubaSherbdr. The two PMs discussed further strengthening of bilateral relations. PM India assured early supply of COVID Vaccines to Nepal,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Nepal posted on Twitter after Modi spoke to Deuba over phone.

In a cordial telephone conversation today, Prime Minister of India @narendramodi congratulated Prime Minister @DeubaSherbdr. The two PMs discussed further strengthening of bilateral relations. PM India assured early supply of COVID Vaccines to Nepal.@PaudyalBR @sewa_lamsal

— MOFA of Nepal 🇳🇵 (@MofaNepal) July 19, 2021

The two Prime Ministers “discussed, in particular, ways to strengthen cooperation and coordination in the context of ongoing effort against the Covid-19 pandemic”, the Ministry of External Affairs of the Government of India stated in New Delhi, albeit without any specific reference to the assurance of “early supply” of vaccines to Nepal.

Deuba took over the top office in Kathmandu on July 13 – a day after the Supreme Court of Nepal ordered him to be appointed as the Prime Minister of Nepal, replacing K P Sharma Oli as he had violated the constitution by dissolving parliament.

Soon after Deuba won the Vote of Confidence in Nepalese Parliament on Sunday, Modi congratulated him on Twitter. He followed it up with the phone-call to his counterpart on Monday. “We will work together to further enhance the wide-ranging cooperation between India and Nepal, including in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic,” he tweeted after speaking to Deuba.

The Modi Government sent out 107.15 lakh doses of the Made-in-India vaccines to foreign nations as grant till April 22, in addition to the 357.92 lakh doses exported commercially and 198.628 lakh doses as contribution to the COVAX.

It, however, paused its “Vaccine-Maitri” initiative after the shortage of the jabs came to the fore and slowed down the inoculation programme in India.

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