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How China shot itself in the foot over vaccine for Bangladesh

Bangladesh is one of the first recipients of India's coronavirus vaccines under the 'Neighbourhood First' policy

Four days back Bangladesh received two million doses of vaccines from India as a gift. It is also sitting smug over a successful deal it signed with the Serum Institute of India (SII) late last year for a supply of 30 million coronavirus vaccines.

Bangladesh is a shining example of how China lost out with an ally it had been courting in South Asia. Chinese vaccine firm Sinovac Biotec's arm twisting of Bangladesh fell flat after the government decided to cancel Sinovac's contract for conducting trials and providing vaccines.

China had been interacting with Bangladesh regarding the pandemic when the Covid-19 crisis was at its peak with most nations confused and helpless but for imposing lockdowns. As far back as June 2020, China had sent medical teams to Dhaka to support the South Asian nation understand and tackle the pandemic. Beijing also assured Bangladesh of speedy delivery of vaccines.

Separately, Bangladesh had an agreement with Sinovac under which it had to conduct mass trials of the Sinovac vaccine in return for free doses. However, the Bangladesh health ministry released information over developments in September and October 2020 that Sinovac asked it to co-fund the trials. Noticing a breach of contract, Bangladesh Health Minister Zahid Maleque cancelled Sinovac's contract and immediately reached out to India's SII for the vaccines.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also followed up on the vaccines. She raised the matter with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during their online summit in December and he promised to facilitate the delivery of the vaccines to Dhaka under the 'Neighbourhood First' policy.

Now, numerous countries in different geographies have started to reject the Chinese vaccines for myriad reasons. The Hindustan Times reports that as China falls out of favour, India is receiving requests for vaccine supply. It reports: "Several countries that have been offered or purchased Chinese Covid-19 vaccines, including Brazil and Cambodia, have turned to India for supplies of the AstraZeneca vaccine amid questions about the efficacy of some of the Chinese jabs."

In December last year, the Ministry of External Affairs had provided vaccination training to friendly countries. Though most were South Asian nations, the training was provided to countries as diverse as Mongolia, Oman, Morocco, Brazil and a handful of others. MEA Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said: "There is interest in many countries in accessing vaccines from India which is the global hub for vaccine production."

China has taken note of the developments. The Communist Party of China mouthpiece, Global Times has run a number of articles on India's coronavirus vaccines and their distribution. In a recent article, it quipped: "Choosing Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka among the first batch of countries to receive Covid-19 vaccines shows India's mentality of competition with China. India believes that it has already won over the Maldives, but it still needs to win over Nepal.” The newspaper is keeping a hawk's eye on all activity happening on the vaccine front in India and its neighbourhood.

With India pushing both vaccines – the AstraZeneca vaccine Covishield by SII as well as the home-grown Covaxin by Bharat Biotech, its credibility as a drug-maker of repute grows by the day. What is also vindicated is it's humanitarian effort in the face of vaccine hypocrisy and a deathly pandemic that raced across the world from Wuhan, China.