The Recitals (January 2021) - Vaccine Maitri Initiative

 Vaccine Maitri Initiative 

India has dispatched 500,000 doses of Covishield vaccines to Sri Lanka as grant assistance under its “Vaccine Maitri” initiative. This initiative has already delivered nearly five million doses to seven countries in the neighbourhood.

India-Sri Lanka Bilateral Relations during COVID times

 • To ensure financial stability of the country during the COVID-19 pandemic, India extended a USD 400-million currency swap facility to Sri Lanka. 

• It gifted around 26 tons of essential lifesaving medicines and equipment to Sri Lanka. 

Besides facilitating the repatriation of several hundred Sri Lankan citizens from various Indian cities, New Delhi was the first to send such a consignment on-board two special Air India aircrafts

What is Vaccine Maitri Initiative? 


• Launched on January 20, 2021, this initiative is also known as Vaccine Friendship Initiative. Under this initiative, India is supplying Made-in-India Covid-19 vaccines to its neighbouring countries. 

• Apart from countries in India’s immediate and extended neighbourhood, these vaccines are also being supplied to India’s close strategic partners such as Brazil, Morocco etc

Distribution of Vaccine Under This Initiative 

• Bhutan and Maldives became the first two countries to receive 150,000 and 100,000 vaccines respectively. 

• Later Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar Seychelles, Mauritius, Sri Lanka etc. received the vaccine. 

• The two million doses gifted by India to Bangladesh were the single largest consignment of vaccines provided by India to any country thus far.

 • There are many countries including South Africa, Saudi Arabia, UAE and a host of others that have signed commercial agreements with Indian manufacturers. 

• Regulatory approvals by Afghanistan are awaited to effect supplies to it

Analysis A. Helping India’s Foreign Policy 

• India produces 60 per cent of all vaccines manufactured in the world. The head of the WHO recently complained that the developed countries monopolised the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for their own populations and were not making them available to developing countries. 

• Against this backdrop, this initiative is basically strengthening India’s foreign policy which is governed by its age-old maxim of ‘’Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’’ (The World is One Family). 

• This initiative in itself is a reflection of India’s commitment to its “Neighbourhood First” Policy and SAGAR doctrine in which the island nation has an important position. 

• Bangladesh government, after receiving the vaccine, had commented that India had stood by the country during the Liberation War of 1971 as well as during the pandemic.

• India’s vaccine assistance reached Nepal within a week of a request made by Nepalese Foreign Minister. This gesture to Nepal came at a time when its ties have been strained by a territorial dispute as well as concerns over China’s expanding influence. 

• There is huge demand for vaccines in countries who are tourism-dependent economies. This has provided an important opportunity for the Indian government to expand and strengthen its outreach. 

• The US State Department, the WHO, Bill Gates and several others have spoken warmly and appreciatively of the selfless manner in which India is helping several developing countries with the vaccines. It will add to India’s global image. B. Took China by Surprise 

• India’s ‘Vaccine Maitri’ Mission appears to have taken China by surprise and put it on the back foot.

 • China is seeking to step-up its vaccine diplomacy amid projections from experts that India could become the "engine" for the distribution of the jabs to the world. 

• Beijing had announced that it would supply three lakh vaccines to Sri Lanka after New Delhi dispatched five lakh doses to Colombo. China has also offered its vaccine supplies to Nepal, Maldives and Brazil, which has already received the first batch of supplies from India. 

• Not only that, around seven million made-in India doses of AstraZeneca’s Covishield vaccine will be part of Pakistan’s vaccine drive. Pakistan is procuring these vaccines under the global Covax alliance (COVAX is a global initiative, which aims at ensuring that middle and lower-income countries get timely access to coronavirus vaccines). 

• China’s ‘iron friend’ Pakistan had to send its aircraft to Beijing to airlift 500,000 doses of the vaccine. This is in stark contrast to the dispatch effected by India to Nepal and Bangladesh in Air India special flights. 

• Brazil which had also imported Chinese vaccines, is wary of using them because it finds that their efficacy is just around 50 per cent, which is much lower than all other vaccines in use in the world. 

 Conclusion 

• While the world is witnessing the aggressive and threatening demeanor of China, the humane and caring attitude of India, in stark contrast, is evident. 

• In the rapidly evolving global geo-political landscape, the healing and supportive actions by India through supply of Covishield and Covaxin vaccines will have a huge impact in promoting peace, security, cooperation and prosperity in the region and the world. 

• India’s ‘Vaccine Maitri’ initiative has further strengthened its image as the first responder in emergency situations. This is all the more commendable when there are only five countries in the world who have thus far been able to successfully manufacture Covid-19 vaccines.

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