On the 24th of January 2021, India donated millions of doses of
the British-developed AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines being
manufactured in the country to neighboring South Asian nations
in an unusual diplomatic initiative.
The vaccine diplomacy seeks to lift the global profile of New
Delhi and fight back toward China, which in South Asia has
increased its reach, analysts claim.
According to Sreeram Chaulia, Dean at the Jindal School of
International Affairs, India wants to showcase itself as a world
leader and this move is about showing power and creating an
As the world's largest manufacturer of vaccines, India is set to
be at the forefront of providing low-and middle-income countries
with affordable vaccines against COVID-19. The Serum Institute
of India, an Indian corporation, has entered AstraZeneca to
produce the vaccine.
Vaccine supplies have recently arrived in Bhutan, Nepal,
Bangladesh, the Maldives, Myanmar, Mauritius, and Seychelles,
only days after the launch of India's own national inoculation
After it gains clearance in those countries, the vaccine will be
sent to Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.
Nevertheless, Pakistan, which has accepted the AstraZeneca
vaccine is clearly missing from the recipient list. As a
response to a press briefing, Anurag Shrivastava, Indian
External Affairs Ministry spokesperson, said that he is not
aware of any request for vaccines from Pakistan’s end.
Amidst all the criticism about vaccine inequality, India has now
managed to gain praise from the neighboring countries and is now
being called a “vaccine powerhouse”. Indian Prime Minister,
Mr.Narendra Modi, has emphasized prioritizing South Asian
countries, i.e. its neighboring countries, for the distribution
of the vaccines. Although China has also been giving its locally
developed vaccines to countries such as Indonesia and Turkey and
promising many others to help overcome the pandemic, South Asian
countries are relying on India for supplying the AstraZeneca
vaccine for their steady recovery.
Sreeram Chaulia further added that India would like to point out
that in this area, unlike some others where China typically
surpasses India in terms of military and economic strength,
India genuinely has a competitive edge and advantage over China
in this sector, in pharmaceutical products, in affordable health
care. This is going to be a subtle reminder that you really can
rely on us, that we have not produced the problem, but we can be
part of the solution.
But this diplomacy became undiplomatic when the Chinese
Communist Party’s daily newspaper Global Times raised concerns
about the ability of India to fulfill the global demand for
vaccinations after the fire at the Pune facility of the Serum
Institute of India (SII), which took five lives and caused a
loss of Rs 1,000 crore, even though the company clarified that
the fire did not affect the development or storage of the Covid-
19 vaccine, Covishield.
Quoting a BBC story, Global Times said that All India Drug
Action Network (AIDAN), a patient advocacy organization, said
that SII had rushed forward with the manufacture of Covishield
without performing a bridging study for the vaccine, despite
SII promising it will do so. Global Times also said that Indians
living in China embraced Chinese vaccines and also cited an
expert stating that India's vaccines were supplied mostly to
South Asian countries, also as assistance, and that many
countries had quality reservations regarding India's vaccines.
Global Times also quoted some tweets where the netizens are
questioning the reliability of Indian media’s coverage of the
SII fire incident and said that they (the media houses) only
showed what the company said.
Countries such as Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Brazil, South Africa,
Bangladesh, and Myanmar, however, have not only become aid
receivers but have also stepped into contractual vaccine