India rejects report of Taiwan’s role in arranging vaccine supplies to Paraguay
India on Thursday scotched reports that Taiwan played a role in arranging supplies of Indian-made Covid-19 vaccines to Paraguay, saying the doses were delivered in response to a request from the Paraguayan side.
Taiwan’s foreign minister Joseph Wu had said on Wednesday that his country worked with other democracies, including India, to help its diplomatic ally Paraguay get Covid-19 vaccines after China pressured the South American country to ditch Taipei in exchange for doses.
Taiwan has formal ties with only 15 countries, and China, which contends that the island doesn’t have the right to diplomatic recognition, has stepped up efforts to coax them away.
However, external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi told a weekly news briefing that India plans to open an embassy in Paraguay.
“During a telephone conversation between the external affairs minister and the foreign minister of Paraguay, a request for vaccines was raised by the Paraguayan side and the external affairs minister responded positively to this request,” he said.
“A shipment of made-in-India vaccines was sent to Paraguay. I would like to confirm that no third party was involved in this,” Bagchi said.
Wu had said that the Chinese government was “very active” in Paraguay and was saying to the public that if Paraguay severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan, they would get millions of doses of Chinese vaccines. This put pressure on Taiwan to help, Wu added.
“In the last few weeks, we have been speaking to like-minded countries, including Japan, the US, India etcetera, and India fortunately has been able to provide some Covaxin vaccines to Paraguay,” he said, referring to a shot developed by India’s Bharat Biotech.
India already shipped 100,000 doses to Paraguay last month and WU said there would be another 100,000.
Both India and Taiwan maintain representative offices in New Delhi and Taipei and there has been speculation about the two sides expanding ties against the backdrop of the India-China standoff along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh sector.
China has bristled at all such contacts between India and Taiwan, saying it goes against the “One China” policy.