'Pharmacy of the World': India to gift 20 lakh vaccine doses to Bangladesh; 10 lakh to Nepal
India will send two consignments of Covid vaccine, containing 20 lakh doses and 10 lakh doses to Bangladesh and Nepal, respectively on Thursday as part of its strong commitment to 'Neighbourhood First' Policy. Anish Singh reports
External Affairs Ministry sources said, "A consignment containing 20 lakh doses of Covishield vaccines will be reaching Dhaka and 1 million to Kathmandu on January 21."
The vaccine delivery is termed as a "gift from the people of India to the people of Bangladesh and Nepal".
"It is also the fulfilment of the assurance given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina during the recent December 17 Virtual Summit, that India would facilitate the supply of vaccines as and when ready. It is a reflection of the strong, vibrant and friendly bilateral ties between the two countries," the sources said.
Covid-19 related cooperation
Both countries have been cooperating in the field of Covid-19 vaccine, including Phase-III testing, distribution, co-production and delivery in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh was the first country to receive a joint delegation consisting of officials from the Department of Bio-Technology as well as vaccine manufacturers, to discuss cooperation relating to Covid vaccine.
Separately, there has been commercial cooperation between Bangladesh public and private sectors and India's private sector on vaccine supply.
India has also provided three tranches of aid to Bangladesh.
30,000 surgical masks and 15000 headcovers were given as the first tranche, while 50,000 gloves and 100,000 hydroxychloroquine tablets and 30,000 RT-PCR test kits were given as second and third tranches.
Six online courses were conducted of which one was conducted exclusively in Bangla language. In total, 352 Bangladeshi professionals have been trained in these courses.
Trade and travel facilitation
India and Bangladesh also worked together to ensure smooth and uninterrupted supply of essential goods during the Covid-19 lockdown by commencing the container as well as parcel train services in July 2020.
In addition, India also facilitated the repatriation of over 5500 Bangladeshi nationals from India during the lockdown period, using road and air.
India had also facilitated the repatriation of Bangladesh students from Wuhan to Bangladesh. In order to facilitate the resumption of flight operations, an air travel bubble has been established between both sides in October 2020.
This allows for 56 flights per week between both sides, connecting Indian cities of Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai with Dhaka and Chittagong in Bangladesh.
Since the onset of the pandemic, India has maintained close coordination with Nepal and provided overall assistance including medical, technical and humanitarian assistance.
Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister of Nepal KP Sharma Oli exchanged views on jointly combating Covid-19 pandemic at the video-conference of SAARC leaders held on March 15, 2020 and also during their telephone call on April 10, 2020.
Covid-19 related assistance
India has provided over 25 tonnes of essential medicines, equipment and medical supplies to Nepal. This includes supplies of Paracetamol, Hydroxychloroquine, PPEs, diagnostic test kits, ventilators and Remdesivir injections under grant assistance worth $2 million.
Trade and travel
Despite the challenges, India ensured an uninterrupted flow of trade and supplies across the border. India remains the largest trade partner of Nepal with bilateral trade crossing US$ 7 billion in 2020.
New Delhi also facilitated the repatriation of Nepali nationals stranded in third countries due to the pandemic. It assisted the efforts of the Nepal government in bringing medical assistance from third countries and repatriation and evacuation of its nationals by providing smooth overflight through Indian territory.
Daily flights between two capital cities started in December 2020 under air travel bubble arrangement, bringing relief to many travelers.
Both sides are now working to restore regular movement of nationals across the border through both land and air routes.