India's vaccine capacity will generate 1.1 billion doses for WHO-led COVAX scheme
New Delhi, Feb 22: India has so far supplied about 230 lakh doses of vaccines against COVID-19 to friends and partners across the world and the country's vaccine capacity will generate another 1.1 billion doses for the WHO-led COVAX scheme that distributes them to developing countries, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said on Monday.
In his address to the Haryana Institute of Public Administration, Shringla also said India believes in the vision of an open, free, rules-based Indo-Pacific region supported by inclusive global and regional institutions that promote prosperous, stable and sovereign states on the basis of shared interests.
The concept of Vasudaiva Kutumbakam is central to India's civilisational ethos as "we believe that the universe is one", he said, asserting that this places upon "us the responsibility of being responsible global citizens".
"We put this teaching into practice during the pandemic. Vaccine Maitri, the global health diplomacy operation in which we have supplied vaccines - made in India - to nations across the world is a practical demonstration of our belief and our approach," Shringla said.
India is the largest producer of vaccines in the world with about 60 per cent of the global share and it has used these strengths not just to launch the world's largest vaccination drive in the country, but has also delivered on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's promise at the UN General Assembly to make Indian manufactured vaccines affordable and accessible to all of humanity, he said.
"We have so far supplied about 230 lakh doses of vaccines to friends and partners across the world. Indian vaccine capacities will generate another 1.1 billion doses for the WHO-led COVAX scheme that distributes them to developing countries across the world," the foreign secretary said.
The aim of COVAX is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world. Underlining that 'Vaccine Maitri' is not an isolated undertaking, Shringla said it takes place in the aftermath of another large operation to provide essential medicines and medical supplies to over 150 countries during the pandemic.
India has established its credentials as the pharmacy to the world during the crisis as medications such as Hydroxychloroquine and Paracetmol made in India were shipped to destinations across the world in daunting logistical circumstances imposed by lockdowns, he pointed out.
Noting that Indian rapid response teams were deployed in eight countries, Shringla said Indian naval vessels and air force airplanes delivered supplies along a wide arc to friends and partners. "We have to make every effort to keep the wheels of globalisation moving safely. That is why we launched the Vande Bharat Mission. It is the largest evacuation and air movement exercise in history and has transported more than 4 million Indian nationals in nine phases back and forth from multiple points across the world to India," he said.
The mission's current form that involves air bubbles with 24 countries and continuing evacuation flights is built upon earlier phases that involved movements of millions of people by air, sea and land, he said. Asserting that the COVID pandemic has had a far-reaching impact on the geo-political and geo-economic landscape, Shringla said it is the greatest shock to the international system since the Second World War. "We were also confronted with the most severe economic slowdown in living history. The human cost of the pandemic has been substantial. Lives and livelihoods both have been lost," he said.
Noting that every facet of national life has been affected by complexities and difficulties, Shringla said Indian diplomacy and India's external policies are no exception. "India has acted with resolve during this unprecedented crisis. A series of public health measures and carefully calibrated lockdowns have produced an unique epidemiological profile," he said.
Noting that several major economies are still living through a deadly second wave of infections, he said in India, the rate of spread of infections, the number of fatalities and the number of cases requiring hospitalisation and critical care, have all shown a consistent decline during the same period. He said the government has also reacted boldly on the economic front.
"Its initial reaction was to launch one of the largest and boldest fiscal stimulus packages in recent economic history. This was accompanied by a simultaneous focus on building an Atmanirbhar Bharat," he noted.
There is enough evidence to indicate that India has turned the corner in economic terms with the IMF projecting 11.5% growth rate for India in 2021, Shringla said.
This would make India the only major economy of the world to register double-digit growth amidst the pandemic, he said. Talking about India's foreign relations, Shringla said the country continues to build on its relationship with the United States.
"We continue to have a special strategic partnership with Russia. We have a rapidly growing and changing relationship with the European Union and with European countries such as the United Kingdom, France and Germany," Shringla said. "We recently entered into our first Green Strategic Partnership with Denmark. Japan is another vital partner with whom we have a mutli-dimensional relationship," he said adding that "we are committed multilateralists".