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Vaccine diplomacy adds fresh layer to Indo-US ties

Blinken told Jaishankar that India remains Washington's preeminent US partner in the Indo-Pacific region

India's health diplomacy is yielding unexpected results with the United States now joining the United Nations in lauding New Delhi's vaccine heft. On Friday, the newly appointed US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a conversation with External Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar, nailed Covid-19 vaccinations as a key dimension of ties during the Joe Biden presidency.

"Warm conversation with Secretary of State @SecBlinken. Congratulated him on his appointment. Look forward to working with him again. Agreed that we could build further on the solid foundation of our partnership. Also discussed our efforts at combating the Covid-19 pandemic," tweeted Jaishankar.

The dialogue between the two top diplomats follows an unexpected praise about India's global role in vaccinations by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres yesterday.

“I would like to say how much we count on India. I mean, India has one of the most advanced pharmaceutical industries. India played a very important role in the production of generics for use that was a very important element of democratisation of access to medicines all over the world,” Guterres said during a media interaction in New York on Friday.

He added: “And we strongly hope that India will have all the instruments that are necessary to play a major role in making sure that a global vaccination campaign becomes possible. I think that the production capacity of India is one of the best assets the world has today, and I hope the world understands that it must be fully used."

As IndiaNarrative.com reported earlier, nearly a dozen vaccines are in the pipeline in India. The vaccine factory of the world is not only developing indigenous vaccines but also manufacturing vaccines developed by MNCs. The line-up is such that a series of launches will take place from India right till the end of 2021.

India has in the past few days supplied millions of Covid-19 vaccines to countries in South Asia, South America, Africa, West Asia, as well as the Pacific Island states.

After Brazil, Mexico has become the second Latin American country that will be getting an India-made vaccine to inoculate its frontline workers amid the surging Covid-19 pandemic in the country.

Mexico will be importing about 870,000 doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine from India in February, Mexican President Andres Manuel Loapez Obrdor said on Friday.

India, which has emerged as the “pharmacy to the world” in the war against Covid-19, had dispatched two million doses of the same Pune-made vaccine to Brazil on January 22. This has enabled the Latin

American country to kick off its inoculation drive at a time when its Covid-19 death toll has crossed 214,000 which is the second highest in the world after the US.

Mexico, which has been averaging over 16,000 fresh Covid-19 cases every day and has lost 1.55 lakh lives to the pandemic, also has an agreement with UK pharma giant AstraZeneca to produce the vaccine but this is expected to take more time.

India has also exported three million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine to Saudi Arabia in a reinforcement of its extended neighbourhood doctrine. All this is happening at a time when India has also launched the world’s biggest vaccination campaign within the country.

As many as 92 countries, across the globe have so far approached India for Covid-19 vaccines. While currently two India-made vaccines have been approved for use, Russia’s Sputnik V and Novavax of the US are expected to be cleared very soon.

World Health Organisation Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has thanked India for its "continued support" in the war against the Covid-19 pandemic.

“India, the vaccine hub of the world is now stepping into the next level of not only becoming part of a manufacturing supply chain but also a candidate for world class R&D. There’s a huge international demand for our vaccines,” said Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla in an interview to a news channel recently.

“We expect to see more global players cooperating with their Indian counterparts in the pharma and healthcare sectors. This is likely to go beyond shifting parts of supply chains to India. We expect to see collaborations, manufacturing and R&D tie ups in this field,” he added.

Going beyond vaccines, in his conversation with Jaishankar, Blinken told his opposite number that India was Washington's preeminent US partner in the Indo-Pacific region.

"I was delighted to speak today with my good friend @DrSJaishankar to discuss US-India priorities. We reaffirmed the importance of the US-India relationship and discussed ways we can better seize new opportunities and combat shared challenges in the Indo-Pacific and beyond," Blinken tweeted after the call.