India will give millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccine to South Asian countries in the next few weeks, government sources said on Thursday, drawing praise from its neighbours and pushing back against China’s dominating presence in the region.
Free shipments of AstraZeneca’s vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, the world’s biggest producer of vaccines, have begun arriving in the Maldives, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal. Myanmar and the Seychelles are next in line to get free consignments as India uses its strength as one of the world’s biggest makers of generic drugs to build friendships.
“The government of India has shown goodwill by providing the vaccine in grant. This is at the people’s level, it is the public who are suffering the most from COVID-19,” said Nepal’s Minister for Health and Population Hridayesh Tripathi.
The gesture comes at a time that India’s ties with Nepal have been strained by a territorial dispute and Indian concern over China’s expanding political and economic influence in the Himalayan nation sandwiched between the Asian giants.