NEW DELHI — External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar told Parliament on Wednesday that India’s reputation as “pharmacy of the world” stands reinforced the way it reached out to nations in the midst of a global crisis and supplied vaccines to 72 nations.
Making a statement on “Vaccine Maitri” initiative, he said the supply of Made-in-India vaccine to these 72 nations after the world was reeling under COVID-19 pandemic prompted global leaders and world citizens extend warmth to India and its citizens.
Even as the COVID pandemic was in full fury, there were already global demands of India’s pharmaceutical and medical capabilities which could be met largely due to the extraordinary ramp up of India’s COVID-related capabilities, Mr Jaishankar said in Rajya Sabha. He made a similar statement in Lok Sabha later.
Talking about low fatality rates and the high recovery rates, he said: “Our reputation as the ‘pharmacy of the world’ has been reinforced. So indeed has the faith in Make in India. But more than the vaccines, our policies and conduct have emerged as a source of strength for the stressed and vulnerable nations of the world. They can see that there is at least one major nation that truly believes in making vaccines accessible and affordable to others in dire need.”
He said Vaccine Maitri began in the immediate neighbourhood, starting with the Maldives, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, as also Mauritius and Seychelles and thereafter to the Gulf.
“Supplying smaller and more vulnerable nations was then the logic of reaching out to regions from Africa to the CARICOM. There was also contracts that our producers have entered into with other nations, either bilaterally or through the Covax initiative. To date, we have supplied Made in India vaccines to 72 nations across geographies,” the minister said.
Mr Jaishankar said there was an external beneficial impact of India’s capabilities and it could meet the spiking requirements of hydroxychloroquine, paracetamol and other relevant drugs across the world and added that India’s domestic vaccination programme started in January and within a few days, it also started assisting immediate neighbours.
“In fact, we supplied 150 nations with medicines, 82 of them as grants by India. As our own production of masks, PPEs and diagnostic kits grew, we made them available to other nations. This generous approach… was also extended to the Vande Bharat Mission. Starting from Wuhan, we brought back nationals of other countries while looking after our own,” he said.
He said as Indians “we are all naturally internationalist by virtue of our culture, traditions, heritage and history” and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision has provided an over-arching framework to make India’s goodwill meaningful in terms of practical initiatives and activities that reflected in its humanitarian assistance and disaster responses, whether in Yemen, Nepal, Mozambique or Fiji.
“In the last few years, India has developed a reputation of being the first and reliable responder in the region,” the minister said.
“When it came to Africa, we raised the level of our cooperation very substantially… Our projects, training and presence has today spread widely across that continent. From the Caribbean to the Pacific Islands, the message has been clear that the Prime Minister of India not only has the willingness to engage them personally, but to back that up with concrete development programmes. It is this outlook of human-centric global cooperation that is the driving force of Vaccine Maitri,” he said.
Mr Jaishankar said the prime minister in his virtual address to the UN General Assembly in September 2020 had declared that India’s vaccine production and delivery capacity will be used to help all humanity in fighting this crisis.
“We also offered to enhance cold chain and storage capacities for the delivery of vaccines. This approach is not only in keeping with our age-old tradition of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam…. As a prominent nation in an increasingly multi-polar world, the international community has greater expectations of us, and we, in turn, are prepared to demonstrate our willingness to shoulder greater responsibilities,” he said.
He said as early as 15 March 2020, the prime minister took the initiative to hold a meeting of SAARC heads of government to fashion a regional response resulting in SAARC COVID-19 Fund that supported the early exchanges on this issue.
“The Ministry of External Affairs conducted 14 e-ITEC courses in partnership with premier institutions like AIIMS and PGI Chandigarh” with 1,131 professional participants in it from 47 countries.
In Rajya Sabha, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said he expected the government to recognise the roots of 2014 success to the previous year adding that the FERA was set up in 1973 while there were huge investments in science and technology in public institutes. He said Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin was developed in an institute in Hyderabad set up 16 years ago by public funds.
Binoy Viswam of CPI said: “We did not become pharmacy of India recently question about vaccine reach to the poor.
Congress leader Anand Sharma said: “We must place the contribution of our institutes built over decades such as ICMR.”
Mr Jaishankar replied: “You will recall the saying, success has many fathers. Too many fathers claiming success today. All of us know the enormous efforts of government in getting vaccine prices lowered, lowest in the world.”