Supply of Covid-19 vaccines to other countries is based on availability of adequate vaccines at home, and an empowered committee is overseeing the entire process, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar informed the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday. He added that the domestic requirement of the vaccine is being monitored continuously even as India sends vaccines to friendly nations across the globe.
In a statement, Jaishankar said, “The House should be aware that the supply of vaccines abroad is based on the assessment of adequate availability at home”, adding that “this is continuously monitored and takes into account the requirements of our domestic vaccination programme as it unfolds in different phases”. He said an “empowered committee oversees this entire process.”
The EAM further said, “…(in) planning and executing Vaccine Maitri, we are naturally guided by a determination to make a difference at a difficult moment for global society”, adding that India’s “reputation as the ‘Pharmacy of the World’ has been reinforced in that process.”
More than the vaccines themselves, he said, “our policies and conduct have emerged as a source of strength for the stressed and vulnerable nations of the world” and other countries can see “that there is at least one major nation that truly believes in making vaccines accessible and affordable to others in dire need.”
Explaining the “thinking behind” the initiative, Jaishankar said “we have never seen a contradiction between this internationalism and the nationalism that was the driver of our independence struggle and subsequent endeavours at nation building.”
“In recent years, as democracy struck deeper roots, we have found our own cultural expressions and identities that define us in a diverse world. In fact, drawing from our heritage, we have become even stronger voices for international cooperation and solidarity. That, of course, is most in demand at times of global stress, such as the Covid pandemic,” he said.
In the last few years India has developed a reputation of being the first and reliable responder in the region, he added, citing the International Solar Alliance and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure as “two notable initiatives envisioned by the Prime Minister.”
He said that 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”, adding that it is “this outlook of human-centric global cooperation that is the driving force of Vaccine Maitri.”
Even when the pandemic was “in full fury, there were already global demands of our pharmaceutical and medical capabilities”, the foreign minister said. India, he mentioned, could meet the spiking requirements of hydroxychloroquine, paracetamol and other relevant drugs across the world and supplied 150 nations with medicines, 82 of them as grants.
“From the very beginning, India has always believed that the pandemic threatens the entire humanity and that the rightful response would be a collective one,” he added.
Jaishankar said that Vaccine Maitri began in the immediate neighbourhood and the “extended neighbourhood followed thereafter, especially the Gulf”, adding, “supplying smaller and more vulnerable nations was then the logic of reaching out to regions from Africa” to the Caribbean.
“There were also contracts that our producers have entered into with other nations, either bilaterally or through the Covax initiative,” he said, stating that till date, India has supplied vaccines made in India to 72 nations across geographies.
Jaishankar said that the “Covid pandemic has been a test of fire for all of us” and “in the midst of a global crisis, the Prime Minister’s initiative of such deep friendship has raised India’s standing and generated great international goodwill for us.”
Responding to the statement, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said that “the roots of the post-2014 success” lie in the “foundations that we laid before 2014”. “While we pat ourselves at the back for being (the) ‘Pharmacy of the World’ and for being a major vaccine manufacturer, let us recognise that there has been a lot of continuity in these policies and the foundations that have been laid in the past few decades that has led to a situation where we can take legitimate pride in our achievements,” he said, adding that he hoped that “at some point of time” Jaishankar will “recognise the continuity in this achievement.”
Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma and his Upper House colleague from the CPI Binoy Viswam also expressed similar sentiments, to which Jaishankar responded that “success has many fathers”, adding that the Opposition members want to praise the initiative, and are “going about it in a very roundabout way”. He also said, “I faintly recall questions which were raised when Covaxin came into the market”. Confirming that he had received Covaxin, he added, “I think, I made my statement that day.”