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Pakistan awaits ‘gift’ from China as India delivers vaccine supplies to key partner countries

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (R) with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in Moscow, last year

Even as the Indian Covid-19 vaccines reached Seychelles and Myanmar Friday afternoon – and Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Maldives the day before – Pakistan is increasingly growing restless awaiting its 500,000 Coronavirus vaccine dose 'gift' from iron brother China.  
A desperate Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the foreign minister of the country, dialled his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi Thursday to discuss "Pakistan's requirements" after reportedly being instructed by Prime Minister Imran Khan to increase interaction with Beijing "considering the sensitivity of the situation."

"I want to give the nation the good news that China has promised to immediately provide 500,000 doses of vaccine to Pakistan by January 31," Qureshi was quoted as saying by Pakistan's leading daily Dawn after the phone call.

"They (China) have said you can send your airplane and immediately airlift this drug," he added.

Qureshi tweeted that Pakistan has approved emergency use authorisation of Chinese vaccine SinoPharm developed by the Beijing Institute of Biological Products, a subsidiary of state-owned conglomerate Sinopharm.

While Qureshi insisted that the vaccines will be delivered by January 31, China today didn't announce the exact date of the delivery.

When questioned about it during the regular press conference in Beijing on Friday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying rather chose to speak about the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Pakistan in detail.

"In order to support our brothers and sisters in Pakistan, the Chinese government has decided to provide a batch of vaccines as aid and will actively coordinate with the relevant Chinese enterprise to speed up export of vaccines to Pakistan," she insisted while replying to a question from the Associated Press of Pakistan on the details about delivery of promised half a million doses of coronavirus vaccines by the end of this month.

The "time-tested rock solid friendship" with the "all-weather strategic cooperative partner" – as Hua puts it – faces a litmus test in the coming days as China not only battles growing doubts about the efficacy of its vaccines but also a surge in coronavirus cases at home.

Reports have emerged in the last 48 hours of how China is rushing to build a massive quarantine camp with more than 4,000 isolation suites in Hebei Province, a region just outside Beijing at the center of a resurgent coronavirus epidemic.

No wonder then that Pakistan, depending hugely on China for Covid vaccines, is getting restless. Besides SinoPharm, the only other vaccine approved by Pakistan for emergency use is the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab.

Earlier this week, Dr Faisal Sultan, the Special Assistant to Pakistani PM on Health, had assured that the country will also receive vaccines through Covax, an international alliance that has pledged free vaccines for 20 per cent population of around 190 countries, including Pakistan.

As reported by Dawn, Pakistan's Ministry of National Health Services believes that country's best chance of getting the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine are through Covax as India had already purchased its research and was also manufacturing it.

This despite the Indian government not being averse to the idea of helping the immediate neighbour considering Prime Minister Narendra Modi's message that India's vaccine approach is intended to heal humanity.

Citing government sources, IndiaNarrative.com had reported Wednesday that India would not oppose providing vaccines to Pakistan as part of a drive to eliminate the virus globally.

The Indian government has already received several requests for the supply of Indian manufactured vaccines from neighbouring and key partner countries. After having delivered vaccine supplies under grant assistance to Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Seychelles, India will begin vaccine assistance to Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Mauritius and other partner countries over the coming weeks and months in a phased manner.

India had earlier also supplied hydroxychloroquine, Remdesivir and paracetamol tablets, as well as diagnostic kits, ventilators, masks, gloves and other medical supplies to a large number of countries during the the pandemic.