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Transfer of one million Covid vaccine doses to Myanmar caps India’s outreach to the military

Indian Foreign Secretary Harshvardhan Shringla with the Red Cross representatives in Myanmar (Photo: Indian embassy/Twitter)

India handed over one million doses of Covid-19 vaccines to Myanmar on Wednesday in its first public outreach to the military government since the February 1 coup.

Foreign Secretary Harshvardhan Shringla, who is on a two-day visit to Myanmar, gave the vaccines to the Myanmar Red Cross Society. 
The Indian embassy in Myanmar tweeted: "Foreign Secretary @harshvshringla handed over 1 million doses of 'Made in India' vaccines to the representatives of the Myanmar Red Cross Society to support the people of Myanmar, including those along the India-Myanmar border, in their fight against COVID-19".

In a statement on Tuesday, the Ministry of External Affairs had said that the, "Foreign Secretary will hold discussions with the State Administration Council, political parties and members of civil society. Issues relating to humanitarian support to Myanmar, security and India-Myanmar border concerns, and the political situation in Myanmar will be discussed".

Shringla will meet the generals as well as the opposition parties. The foreign secretary had earlier visited the country in October 2020 with Indian Army chief General MM Naravane to boost security and defence ties. India had also handed over a submarine to the Myanmar Navy–its first submarine acquisition. 

The situation in Myanmar has deteriorated rapidly since the February coup by the Tatmadaw–the Myanmar military. It has exacerbated migration from Myanmar to neighbouring countries including Thailand and India. The situation along the Indian border is tense with tens of thousnds of Myanmarese refugees trooping onto the border. Reports of anti-India insurgents attacking security forces along the border have escalated.

The coup has intensified ethnic conflicts in the country with not just the rebels but many pro-democracy protestors resorting to armed resistance against the military. The UN estimates that nearly 1,500 pro-democracy people have died in clashes with the armed forces.

Besides the poor security situation on the border, Covid-19 numbers too are rising on the border with India. The rapid spread of the coronavirus infection in Myanmar, due to protests by the medical staff expressing unhappiness over the coup, now threatens Indian border states with the deadly infection.