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China forces vaccines on Nepal in plot to counter India

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi

China has been pressuriing Nepal to accept its Covid19 vaccine even though the efficacy and safety of the shots has still not been established as Beijing is keen to counter India's vaccine diplomacy which has forged ahead in the region.

Nepal has already rolled out its vaccination drive with the one million doses provided by India as a gift. Quoting ‘leaked” correspondence between the Nepalese government and the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu, Nepalese media has reported that China forced Nepal to accept its Sinovac vaccine produced by Sinopharm without any further delay. The Nepalese side had sent a letter to the Chinese Embassy saying the company supplying the vaccine had not provided the required documents.

According to Nepali website lekhajokhanews.com, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi held a telephonic conversation with his Nepali counterpart Pradeep Kumar Gyawali on Friday and put pressure to accept the vaccines first and said the details about the vaccines would be sent afterwards, “Necessary documents will be provided later, but take the vaccine immediately,” the letter from the Chinese Embassy sent to the Nepali government states. It warns that otherwise the country will have to wait quite long to get the vaccine.

“The Sinopharm vaccines are currently in high demand and short supply. In order to provide the vaccines to Nepal at the earliest and help the Nepalese people fight against the pandemic, the Chinese side has again made arrangements to this end in coordination with Sinopharm. The relevant documents including legal disclaimer may be provided simultaneously or later,” the letter went on to say, "If the Nepali side could not collect this batch of the vaccine as soon as possible, it will be redistributed by other commercial orders and the manufacturing of the vaccines for Nepal will have to be put on a much later list."

"The Embassy hopes that relevant Nepali authorities could facilitate the early approval and registration of Sinopharm vaccine for the emergency use in Nepal for the benefit of the Nepali people."

This was followed by a meeting between the Minister of Health and Population of Nepal, Hridayesh  Tripathi and the Chinese Ambassador Hou Yanqi.

The statement issued by the Chinese embassy says that, the State Councillor and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic China, Wang Yi, during a telephonic conversation with Foreign Minister Gyawali announced that China will provide 500,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine to Nepal on a grant basis. “China will accord priority to Nepal in vaccine cooperation,” the statement said.

India had won goodwill in the region providing reliable vaccines to all its neighbours inlcuding Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Myanmar, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. These countries got an alternative to the dragon which has strings attached to its vaccine exports programme aimed at establishing Beijing's dominance in the region.

The Pune-based Serum Institute of India is locally producing the vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca.

Prof Sridhar Khatri, executive director at South Asia Centre for Policy Studies says that as home to the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, India is trying to use its manufacturing heft to earn  goodwill of its neighbours. “India played it well, beating China in supplying the vaccines to Nepal, India can rightfully boast about its neighbourhood first policy again.”