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India’s reputation as pharmacy of world reinforced: Jaishankar

Making a statement in the Rajya Sabha on ‘Vaccine Maitri’ initiative, he said that India has supplied 'Made-in-India' vaccine to 72 nations

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S Jaishankar, External Affairs Minister told Rajya Sabha that India’s reputation as the “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.

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, Jaishankar said.

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 were 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.

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 our 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.

“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.

“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, 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.

Jairam Ramesh (Cong) said he expected the government to recognise the roots of 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 with public funds.

Binoy Viswam of CPI said, “We did not become pharmacy of India recently question about vaccine reach to the poor.

Anand Sharma (Cong) echoed, “We must place the contribution of our institutes built over decades such as ICMR.”

To these, 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”

He also said that he was proud to have taken Covaxin.

(Edits by EP News Bureau)

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