New Delhi: External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar Tuesday said it will be a “legitimate” step for India if it addresses its Covid vaccine needs first to meet the immediate challenge of rising coronavirus cases in the country even as he defended the Modi government’s efforts to help other nations with their vaccine requirements.
This comes at a time when the government has come under criticism for exporting vaccines to countries around the world while it is facing an imminent shortage within the country with some states already alleging a lack of doses.
“Equitable access is critically important as we all know that no one will be safe unless everyone is safe. While we know that we don’t practice it. Quite honestly the global tendency has been to circle the wagons and say, well, I’m going to look at myself, mostly. I understand that. I am not against that. I think if any country is under stress, if numbers are going up, which by the way they are for us right now, I think it is completely legitimate that we apply, repurpose our production to where the immediate challenge is,” he said at the Raisina Dialogue 2021, organised jointly by the Ministry of External Affairs and Observer Research Foundation (ORF).
Since March, India has been witnessing a steady rise in cases, now averaging about a lakh new infections on a daily basis. As of 8am Tuesday morning, the country recorded 1.61 lakh new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, while the recovery rate dropped to 89.51 per cent.
‘Helping is the decent thing to do’
Defending India’s ‘Vaccine Maitri’ initiative under which the country has exported Covid vaccines to over 80 nations, Jaishankar spoke about how India follows the values of international cooperation, which is “not just being good, but also being smart”.
“For those who actually question the international cooperation, I want people to also understand this — that our ability to make vaccines is itself a result of international cooperation. So, international cooperation is not a one-way street where we are giving things to other people and somewhere short-changing ourselves, I think people need to understand that … Helping others is the decent thing to do,” he said.
He added that in India, vaccine manufacturers had contractual commitments as well as a commitment to COVAX, the WHO programme under which India has been helping neighbouring countries and African and Caribbean nations among others access vaccines.
“For small countries, it isn’t just the ability to buy, they don’t actually have the wherewithal to actually access the market. So, I think it’s important … In my view, the real debates of globalisation has been the equity and fairness of globalisation,” he said.
Jaishankar also said India will bring in “additional capabilities” and ramp up the production of vaccines as it plays a larger role in the world because the country “embraces the world” and “believes in international cooperation. “Whether it’s hydroxychloroquine or whether it’s vaccines, we’ve stepped forward,” the top minister said.
(Edited by Manasa Mohan)