‘Vaccine Maitri created great global goodwill’: S Jaishankar in Parliament
The Vaccine Maitri initiative, which has so far supplied Made-in-India Covid-19 vaccines to 72 countries, demonstrated the quality of the country’s products and generated great international goodwill, external affairs minister S Jaishankar said on Wednesday.
While making similar statements on the initiative in both houses of Parliament, Jaishankar also appeared to reject criticism from the West about the government’s handling of certain issues and the status of democracy in the country by saying Indians are “naturally internationalist by virtue of our culture, traditions, heritage and history”.
The planning and execution of Vaccine Maitri was guided by a “determination to make a difference at a difficult moment for global society”, he said. “Our reputation as the ‘pharmacy of the world’ has been reinforced in that process. So indeed has the faith in ‘Make in India’,” he added.
“But more than the vaccines themselves, 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,” Jaishankar said.
Vaccine Maitri began in India’s immediate neighbourhood, starting with the Maldives, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, Mauritius and Seychelles, and this was followed by the extended neighbourhood, especially West Asia. India then reached out to smaller and vulnerable countries by sending vaccines to African and Caribbean nations, and also fulfilled contracts with other countries or through the Covax initiative.
“The House should recognise the enormous feeling for India that our initiative has generated...In the truest sense, this has been people-centric diplomacy at work,” Jaishankar said.
“The world sees not just the selfless outlook of India but also of the quality of our products and capabilities...the Prime Minister’s initiative of such deep friendship has raised India’s standing and generated great international goodwill for us,” he added.
All vaccine supplies abroad are based on an assessment of adequate availability at home. “This is continuously monitored and takes into account the requirements of our domestic vaccination programme as it unfolds in different phases,” he said.
Jaishankar said Indians are “naturally internationalist” and have “never seen a contradiction between this internationalism and the nationalism that was the driver of our independence struggle”. He added: “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.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision provided a framework for practical initiatives and activities such as humanitarian assistance and disaster responses over the past few years, and India developed a reputation as the “first and reliable responder in the region”, he said. This approach of human-centric cooperation is the driving force of Vaccine Maitri, he added.
Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, India ramped up its capabilities and met the growing demands for hydroxychloroquine, paracetamol and other drugs across the world. India supplied 150 nations with medicines, 82 of them as grants, and also provided PPE and diagnostic kits to other countries.
India’s move to start helping its neighbours within days of rolling out its domestic vaccination programme in January has its basis in the prime minister’s assurance in his address to the UN General Assembly last September, when Modi declared that India’s vaccine production and delivery capacity will be used to help all humanity.
“We also offered to enhance cold chain and storage capacities for the delivery of vaccines...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,” Jaishankar said.