External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Saturday handed over 100,000 additional doses of Covid-19 vaccines to the Maldives as a gift ”from the people of India” and offered a $40 million line of credit for boosting the island nation’s sports infrastructure.
"From the people of India to the people of Maldives. Handed over 100,000 additional doses of COVID vaccine to FM @abdulla_shahid and Health Minister @KerafaNaseem," Jaishankar said in a tweet.
"An extraordinarily deep partnership reaffirmed. Comprehensive talks with FM @abdulla_shahid (Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid). Deeply appreciate our close cooperation during Covid. Agreed to look beyond at post-pandemic economic recovery," he added.
India's soft-power diplomacy speared first by bulk despatch of Hydroxychloroquine tablets at the early stage of the pandemic followed by global supply of vaccines has been paying rich dividends, Expanding on the theme, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday had highlighted the need for neighbouring countries in the region to consider sharing data on the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines and urged them to explore the possibility of providing special visas for medical staff to undertake cross-border visits during health emergencies.
India has sent more than 17 million Covid-19 vaccine doses to neighbouring countries including Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
“Can we create a regional platform for collating, compiling and studying data about the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines among our populations?” PM Modi had said in his address at a virtual meeting of regional health officials
“Can we consider creating a special visa scheme for our doctors and nurses, so that they can travel quickly within our region during health emergencies, on the request of the receiving country?” he added.
India has emerged as the "pharmacy of the world" as 25 countries have already received India-made vaccines, including neighbours like Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Another 49 countries, including Canada, are also in the queue for the vaccines as production is being stepped up. It has also promised to gift 200,000 doses to UN peacekeepers around the world.
Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid thanked Jaishankar for the "generous gift", adding that the two countries would overcome the Covid-19 pandemic together.
"Additional 100,000 doses of hope! Thank You to the people of India for this generous gift. Delighted to accept, with Health Minister Naseem, on behalf of Government & people of the Maldives! Together, we will overcome #Covid19! Together, we will succeed," Shahid wrote in a tweet.
Maldives was the first country to receive Covid-19 vaccines India’s first gift 1,00,000 doses in January as part of New Delhi’s “Neighbours First” outreach.
Pacts to build roads, housing
The EAM, he tweeted, witnessed the exchange of agreements on a wide range of domains "we are working on together" that include fish processing, public broadcasting, sustainable urban development, road infrastructure and housing.
"Emblematic of our strong & multi-faceted development partnership," Jaishankar wrote in another tweet. The minister further remarked that a 'FitIndia' and 'Neighbourhood First' would lead to a 'Fit Maldives'. "#FitIndia + #NeighbourhoodFirst = Fit Maldives. Delighted to join Speaker @MohamedNasheed, FM @abdulla_shahid, and Sports Minister @AhmedMahloof at the Ekuveni Stadium. Our development assistance has made possible a modern running track and play ground," he tweeted.