[IN PICS] India's soft power reaches its height with Covid vaccine delivery

As India undertakes the world's biggest Covid-19 vaccination drive at home, it has also come forward to help countries in need, true to the ideal of 'Sarve Santu Niramaya'

[IN PICS] India's soft power reaches its height with Covid vaccine delivery
Indian Covid-19 vaccines reach Seychelles. Image courtesy: Twitter/@DrSJaishankar

The production of Covid-19 vaccines at home has given India an important tool of diplomacy. India, the 'pharmacy of the world', has started delivering millions of doses of the coronavirus vaccine to its neighbouring countries and even beyond, extending its soft power and garnering significant goodwill in fractious South Asia, and other parts of the world.    

As India undertakes the world's biggest Covid-19 vaccination drive at home, it has also come forward for 'Vaccine Maitri', or 'Vaccine Friendship' to help countries in need, true to the ideal of 'Sarve Santu Niramaya', or 'May all be free from illness'. Indian medicine has been famous right from ancient times when Charaka and Sushruta lived and worked.

An AN32 aircraft arrives in Paro valley, ferrying Bhutan's first consignment of Covid-19 vaccine from India. Image courtesy: Twitter/@PMBhutan

According to a Reuters report, many middle and low-income countries are relying on India, the world's largest vaccine manufacturer, for supplies of the Covid-19 vaccine, so that they can start immunisation programmes to combat the pandemic that wreaked havoc across the world over the past year. 

India dispatches 1.0 lakh doses of Covishield vaccine to the Maldives. Image courtesy: Twitter/@MoCA_GoI

The Indian ministry of external affairs notified on January 19 that the government had received several requests for the supply of Made in India vaccines from neighbouring and key partner countries. India started vaccine shipments from January 20 "in response to these requests, and in keeping with India’s stated commitment to use India’s vaccine production and delivery capacity to help all of humanity fight the Covid pandemic".

Indian vaccines arrive in the Maldives. Image courtesy: Twitter/@MoCA_GoI

Countries like Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Seychelles were to get the vaccines under grant assistance. Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Mauritius were also to receive the vaccines. 

An Air India aircraft brings Indian vaccines to Bangladesh. Image courtesy: Image courtesy: Twitter/@DrSJaishankar

"India is deeply honoured to be a long-trusted partner in meeting the healthcare needs of the global community. Supplies of Covid vaccines to several countries will commence tomorrow, and more will follow in the days ahead," Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted on January 19.

India brings Covid-19 vaccines to Bangladesh. Image courtesy: Twitter/@DrSJaishankar

"India fulfils the commitment to give vaccines to humanity. Supplies to our neighbours will start on 20th January. The 'Pharmacy of the World' will deliver to overcome the Covid challenge," Foreign Minister S Jaishankar said. 

Consignments of Indian-made Covid vaccines being airlifted for Seychelles and Mauritius. Image courtesy: Twitter/@MEAIndia

India started sending free vaccines to Bhutan, Bangladesh, Maldives and Nepal from January 20, and in the space of just three days, more than 3.2 million doses were sent to these four countries. India also sent under a commercial agreement, two million doses to Brazil, which has been one of the countries worst-hit by the pandemic. 

An Air India plane carrying Covishield vaccines for the Maldives. Image courtesy: Twitter/@MoCA_GoI

Initially, India has been sending out the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine called Covishield, which is manufactured on a large-scale by the Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII). On January 3, the Indian government had announced final approval for the Covishield and Covaxin vaccines, preparing the ground for one of the biggest inoculation drives in the world.

The Covishield vaccine being sent to Seychelles and Mauritius. Image courtesy: Twitter/@MEAIndia

Covaxin is India's first indigenous Covid-19 vaccine and has been developed by Bharat Biotech in association with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and National Institute of Virology, Pune.  

Covid-19 vaccines being airlifted for Seychelles and Mauritius. Image courtesy: Twitter/@MEAIndia   

At least two other Covid-19 vaccines are expected to be cleared for use by the Indian government in the next few months, according to Reuters. 

Brazilian President Jair M Bolsonaro tweets his thanks to India. Image courtesy: Twitter/@jairbolsonaro

India's efforts to combat a pandemic that had brought the world to its knees would take its soft power to a whole new exalted level. It would make India's neighbours and partners indebted to India, and the whole world would recognise the supremacy of India's pharmaceutical industry as and when the Made in India vaccines spread further across the world. 

Made in India vaccines arrive in Brazil. Image courtesy: Twitter/@DrSJaishankar

The Indian aviation sector, in this regard, is playing a pivotal role in India's endeavour to send Covid vaccines near and far in a bid to extend its soft power and gain goodwill among the world community.   

Made in India vaccines arrive in Brazil. Image courtesy: Twitter/@DrSJaishankar 

On January 20, the ministry of civil aviation (MoCA) tweeted that 1.5 lakh doses of the Covishield vaccine were shipped to Bhutan. The 431-kg consignment was transported from Pune to the Bagdogra airport on civil aircraft. India also shipped 1 lakh doses of the vaccine to Male, the capital of Maldives, onboard an Air India aircraft from Mumbai. 

Nepal got 1 million doses of the Covishield vaccine from India, while Bangladesh and Myanmar got two million and 1.5 million doses respectively. While 50,000 doses were sent to Seychelles under grant assistance, Morocco received two million doses of the vaccine under a commercial agreement.

Indian vaccines land in Casablanca, Morocco. Image courtesy: Twitter/@DrSJaishankar

"Our profound gratitude to the GoI for the generous gift of 1,50,000 doses of Covishield vaccines that Bhutan received today. Deeply grateful to GoI for its abiding friendship and unconditional support to Bhutan’s fight against the Covid-19 pandemic," said Tandi Dorji, the Foreign Minister of Bhutan. 

Indian Covid vaccines arrive in Morocco. Image courtesy: Twitter/@DrSJaishankar

"A short while ago, a flight from India with 1,00,000 doses of the CoviShield vaccine arrived in the Maldives, renewing our hopes for a resolution to the Covid-19 crisis soon. Our heartfelt thanks to PM Narendra Modi, government and people of India for this most generous gift," said President of Maldives Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. 

Indian vaccines arrive in Myanmar. Image courtesy: Twitter/@DrSJaishankar

"Maldives is happy to receive as a grant, 1,00,000 doses of Covishield developed by Serum Institute of India - among the first countries to receive vaccines from India. As always, India stands strong and steadfast, by our side, as 1st responder in any crisis," added Abdulla Shahid, Foreign Minister of Maldives.  

Vaccine Maitri between India and Nepal. Image courtesy: Twitter/@kpsharmaoli

"I sincerely thank Prime Minister Modi and his government for prioritising regional safety and aiding neighbouring countries so swiftly," said Mohamed Nasheed, former President of Maldives.

Myanmar receives Indian vaccines. Image courtesy: Twitter/@DrSJaishankar

I thank Prime Minister Shri @narendramodi ji as well as the Government and people of India for the generous grant of one million doses of COVID vaccine to Nepal at this critical time when India is rolling out vaccination for it's own people," Nepal's Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli tweeted. 

Indian Covid vaccines arrive in Nepal. Image courtesy: Twitter/@DrSJaishankar

"We are deeply grateful to India for donating 1,00,000 doses of Covishield to Mauritius as part of its Mission ‘Vaccine Maitri’," said Prime Minister of Mauritius Pravind Kumar Jugnauth.

Made in India vaccine delivered to Mauritius. Image courtesy: Twitter/@DrSJaishankar 

Saudi Arabia and South Africa were also on India's radar for commercial supply of the Covid-19 vaccine, the Financial Express reported. 

Vaccine Maitri between India and Mauritius. Image courtesy: Twitter/@JugnauthKumar

"Dhanyawaad Bharat!" tweeted Brazilian President Jair M Bolsonaro, adding an image of Lord Hanuman carrying the Dronagiri mountain and Covid vaccines all the way from India to Brazil. According to the epic Ramayana, unable to identify the life-saving herbs on the Dronagiri mountain in the Himalayas, Lord Hanuman carried the entire mountain all the way to Lanka to save Lakshman's life during the war with demon-king Ravan. 

Mauritius gets Indian-made Covid vaccines. Image courtesy: Twitter/@DrSJaishankar

"Brazil is honoured to have a great partner to overcome a global obstacle. Thank you for helping us with vaccine exports from India to Brazil," Bolsonaro added. To this, Modi replied, "The honour is ours, President Bolsonaro, to be a trusted partner of Brazil in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic together. We will continue to strengthen our cooperation in healthcare."

Indian-made Covishield vaccines arrive in Seychelles. Image courtesy: Twitter/@DrSJaishankar

The US called India a "true friend", which is using its pharmaceuticals to help the global community. "We applaud India's role in global health, sharing millions of doses of Covid-19 vaccine in South Asia. India's free shipments of the vaccine began with Maldives, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal and will extend to others," the South and Central Asia Bureau of the US State Department tweeted.

Indian vaccines reach Maldives. Image courtesy: Twitter/@DrSJaishankar

"I commend India's efforts to help its neighbours by providing them with free Covid-19 vaccines. Global challenges like the pandemic require both regional and global solutions," said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks.

Covishield vaccines from India arrive in Bhutan. Image courtesy: Twitter/@DrSJaishankar

India's efforts gained rich praise from the US media as well. "The shipments reflect one of India's unique strengths: It is home to a robust vaccine industry, including Serum Institute of India, one of the world's largest vaccine makers," The Washington Post noted. 

The Maldives receives Indian vaccines. Image courtesy: Twitter/@abdulla_shahid

"Thank you, India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for your continued support to global Covid-19 response. Only if we act together, including sharing of knowledge, can we stop this virus and save lives and livelihoods,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO). 

First consignment of Covishield vaccine takes off for Bhutan. Image courtesy: Twitter/@MEAIndia

Significantly, China and Pakistan were not recipients of India's benevolence. Pakistan had not requested Indian assistance, Reuters reported, citing an Indian government official. Pakistan had approved the emergency use of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine but is yet to receive any supplies.  

Indian vaccines arrive in the Maldives. Image courtesy: Twitter/@abdulla_shahid

In India, the total number of healthcare workers vaccinated crossed 19.5 lakh on the 10th day of the immunisation programme on January 25.

First consignment of Covishield vaccine takes off for Bhutan. Image courtesy: Twitter/@MEAIndia

According to a Live Mint report, however, the Covishield vaccine would have to wait till February for global distribution and use. Ghebreyesus had indicated earlier this month that the WHO was waiting for the SII to provide full data sets for rapid assessment so that the global body can recommend the Covishield vaccine for international use.

Covishield vaccines being sent to Bhutan. Image courtesy: Twitter/@MEAIndia

Earlier, India had also sent hydroxychloroquine, Remdesivir and paracetamol tablets as well as diagnostic kits, ventilators, masks, gloves and other medical supplies to Brazil, the US and South Africa and many other countries.

Made in India Covid-19 vaccines on their way to Bhutan. Image courtesy: Twitter/@MEAIndia

Furthermore, in April last year, when a nationwide lockdown was in force in India, the Indian Air Force (IAF) shipped 6.2 tonnes of essential medicines and hospital consumables onboard a C-130 military transport aircraft from India to the Maldives under Operation Sanjeevani, according to a Financial Express report. Medicines, including influenza vaccines and anti-viral drugs such as Lopinavir and Ritonavir were picked up by the IAF with the help of the Indian Army from various airports of the country, including New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Madurai.

Indian Covid-19 vaccines being dispatched to Bhutan. Image courtesy: Twitter/@MoCA_GoI

The hospital consumables included catheters, nebulisers, urine bags and infant feeding tubes and other medications for cardiac conditions, kidney ailments, hypertension, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, allergies and cancer treatment, anticonvulsants. In March, India had gifted 5.5 tonnes of essential medicines to the Maldives. During the lockdown, Indian airlines carried medical cargo to countries like the Philippines, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and others.

Covishield vaccines on their way from India to Bhutan. Image courtesy: Twitter/@MoCA_GoI