Back home, more than 6.31 lakh healthcare workers have been vaccinated, with the numbers adding up each day. From today (January 20, 2021) India is sending vaccine consignments to its Asian neighbours. According to the statement of the Ministry of External Affairs, the dispatch of vaccines to “Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Seychelles will begin from 20 January 2021. In respect of Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Mauritius, we are awaiting their confirmation of necessary regulatory clearances.”
India fulfils commitment to give vaccines to humanity. Supplies to our neighbours will start on 20th January.
— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) January 19, 2021
First consignment takes off for Bhutan!
— Anurag Srivastava (@MEAIndia) January 20, 2021
The statement also underlined that “keeping in view the domestic requirements of the phased rollout, India will continue to supply COVID-19 vaccines to partner countries over the coming weeks and months in a phased manner. It will be ensured that domestic manufacturers will have adequate stocks to meet domestic requirements while supplying abroad.”
The larger Impact
It is obvious that both China and India have their own roles in shaping the geopolitical narrative in Asia, especially in the Indo-Pacific region.
China’s approach has been that of giving out large amounts of loan and roll-out their infrastructure projects in those countries. This predatory debt diplomacy has arguably tasted success at an initial stage, giving a perception that with its forced ties with many small countries in Asia, China had encircled India strategically.
But India’s approach has been that of cooperation, building bonds based on civilizational values, and investing in institution building among neighbours, the impact of which will help those nations for generations to come.
Now, India rolling-out a vaccine for its friendly neighbours even as it is in the midst of vaccinating its own population makes the world reckon the value of having friendship with India. It is also to be noted that this is the same approach that India had followed in the initial stages of Covid-19 outbreak when the countries needed hydroxychloroquine, Remdesivir and paracetamol tablets, as well as diagnostic kits, ventilators, masks, gloves and other medical supplies.
Nepal Example – India Sets the Example of Engaging with Neighbours
One can create a favourable perception by pumping money to small countries only for a short time. It is difficult times that test the depth of friendship. A few months ago, there was a perception that the present administration of Nepal has leant completely in favour to China, and there were scores of pieces that opined India lost its diplomatic sheen in Nepal.
As we witnessing the moments of Vaccine Maitri, that momentary perception seems to be passe. Like many neighbouring nations, Nepal is hopefully looking at India for the vaccine.
Here are two headlines, one related to the present and another from 2015 when Nepal faced a devastating earthquake, together tell how a true friend looks like. India proved its commitment in both the occasions while the nation that wishes to control the narrative with its debt diplomacy nowhere to be seen.
With Vaccine Maitri, India showed the world just who is capable of taking care of the Indo-Pacific region. History will hopefully remember that the virus originated from a country that has no place for democracy and transparency, while another Asian nation India that stood for openness and larger interests of humanity rolled-out vaccines for all.