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Indian vaccine heals Barbados amid Rihanna row

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the India-CARICOM Leaders’ Meeting in New York on September 25, 2019 (Image courtesy: PIB)

It is unfortunate for a country as quaint and beautiful as Barbados to be making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Much before Rihanna hit the Billboard Hot 100 charts, the likes of Garry Sobers, Joel Garner, Gordon Greenidge, Wes Hall, Desmond Haynes, Malcolm Marshall and the three W's — Sir Everton Weekes, Clyde Walcott and Sir Frank Worrell — had worked terribly hard to bring glory to the Caribbean nation. They still remain the greatest Barbadians to live ever.

While the international popstar moves between Los Angeles, San Diego and the St. Johns Wood neighbourhood of North London, creating flutter with her tweets on issues she has zilch knowledge about, it is the government in Bridgetown which suffers massive reputational damage and has to constantly repair its alliances and engage with the world once again.

From being 'asked to leave' the Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi over a controversial photo shoot which went against the code of conduct to, on another occasion, apologising for playing a controversial Islamic song during her lingerie show, the R&B singer has often put the government in her native country in an awkward situation.

And, unlike other greats from her land like Sobers, Rihanna has always struggled for timing.
Her tweet on the ongoing farmer protests came at a time when Barbados was urgently seeking India's help to counter the growing scourge of Covid-19 at home.  

In her address to the nation on January 26, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley revealed about her letter to the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi urgently seeking Covid-19 vaccines.  

"You've heard about the letter that I've written to Prime Minister Modi from India, but I've also been in deep conversations with many others. Out there, truly has been like the Wild, Wild West. But the conversations with the Indian government are promising," Mottley said.

The Indian government, in spite of the controversial Rihanna tweet and the piling requests for the supply of Indian manufactured vaccines from neighbouring and key partner countries, immediately swung into action and prioritized Barbados in its promised vaccine supply to the CARICOM countries.

Mottley, in a letter now gone viral, thanked PM Modi for the 100,000 doses of Indian Covid-19 vaccine.

India Covid Vaccine

It is not for the first time though that the two nations, who have always enjoyed friendly bilateral relations reinforced by their commonwealth membership, the English language and love for cricket, are closely working with each other.

Both countries are members of the L. 69 Group – a group of 42 developing countries from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific –  and actively interact in the UN, Commonwealth and NAM.

Barbados also supported India's candidature for Non-Permanent seat at UNSC and has also committed support for India's bid for Permanent Membership of UNSC. It also supported India's successful candidacies in the elections to International Court of Justice (ICJ), International Tribunal of the Laws of the Seas (ITLOS) and Executive Board of UNESCO and International Maritime Organizations (IMO) in 2018 and continued its support to India’s candidature for WCO and WHO in 2019.

The relationship also assumes great significance considering the growing influence of China in the region, not just in the Caribbean but also in Latin America.

Just like it is being witnessed in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, Beijing has lured dozens of South and Central American countries into a debt trap through its Belt and Road Initiative. It starts with supporting development through investment and trade and moves to taking over the economic, political and security role gradually.