The vaccine delivery is termed as a “gift from the people of India to the people of Bangladesh”. It is also the fulfilment of the assurance given by Prime Minister Modi to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during the recent December 17, 2020 Virtual Summit, that India would facilitate supply of vaccines as and when ready.
The vaccines supplied are manufactured by Serum Institute of India in Pune. The relevance of an “Atmanirbhar Bharat” is reiterated through this timely delivery of “Made in India” vaccines. As Modi said, “In India’s self-reliance, there is a concern for the whole world’s happiness, cooperation and peace.”
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 Department of Bio Technology (DBT) as well as vaccine manufacturers, to discuss cooperation relating to COVID vaccine. A delegation led by DBT had visited Bangladesh in October 2020.
Separately, there has been commercial cooperation between Bangladesh public and private sectors and our private sector on vaccine supply.
It may be recalled that India has also provided three tranches of aid to Bangladesh. 30,000 surgical masks and 15000 headcovers was given as the first tranche, while 50,000 gloves & 100,000 HCQ tablets and 30,000 RT-PCR test kits were given as second and third tranches. Six online courses have been conducted of which one was conducted exclusively in Bangla language. In total, 352 Bangladeshi professionals have been trained in these courses.
Apart from these aspects directly related to COVID, both sides also worked together to ensure smooth and uninterrupted supply of essential goods during the COVID-19 lock-down by commencing the Container as well as Parcel train services in July 2020.
Additionally India facilitated the repatriation of more than 5500 Bangladeshi nationals from India during the lockdown period, using road and air. India had also facilitated repatriation of Bangladesh students from Wuhan to Bangladesh.
In order to facilitate resumption of flight operations that were disrupted due to COVID pandemic, an Air Travel Bubble was 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. This has helped essential travel particularly of those requiring medical attention.
Besides Bangladesh India is gifting 1 million doses of Covishield vaccines to Nepal. The vaccines manufactured by the Serum Institute of India will reach Kathmandu on Thursday. Nepal had earlier requested for supply of Indian manufactured Covid vaccines. The request was also made during a recent visit to India by the Foreign Minister of Nepal.
Since the onset of the pandemic, India has maintained close coordination with Nepal and provided overall assistance including medical, technical and humanitarian assistance, sources recalled.
India has provided more than 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.
Training and capacity building has been extended to Nepali health workers, doctors and professionals for effective management of Covid, immunization, administration, cold chain storage. Several Nepali health workers participated at the ‘COVID-19 Vaccine Roll-out: Training of Trainers’ organised by the government on January 19-20.
Despite the challenges, India ensured uninterrupted flow of trade and supplies across the border. India remains the largest trade partner of Nepal with bilateral trade crossing $ 7 billion in 2020.
India also facilitated the repatriation of Nepali nationals stranded in third countries due to the pandemic. It assisted the efforts of the Government of Nepal in bringing medical assistance from third countries and repatriation/ evacuation of its nationals by providing smooth overflight through Indian territory. Special facilitation was provided for travel of Nepali nationals requiring emergency medical treatment in India.
Daily flights between Delhi and Kathmandu were launched in December 2020 under the Air travel Bubble arrangement between India and Nepal, bringing relief to many travellers. Both sides are now working to restore regular movement of nationals across the border through both land and air routes.
The various India-assisted connectivity, infrastructure and development projects in Nepal made concrete progress despite the difficulties due to Covid restrictions. Several reconstruction and High Impact Community Development projects were completed and handed over to the Government of Nepal. India will continue to work with Nepal towards economic recovery in post- Covid world, sources pointed out.