India to Restart Vaccine Exports as Neighbors Step Up Pressure
(Bloomberg) -- India planned to restart Covid vaccine exports due to an increase in local manufacturing and growing pressure from its neighbors, a government official told reporters on Tuesday, just as Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to embark on a visit to the U.S.
Home to the world’s largest vaccine manufacturing industry, India will now supply to Bangladesh, Nepal and Maldives as well as Southeast Asia countries via government-to-government deals and an equitable vaccine initiative that most poor nations depend on, said the official.
The decision to restart exports came just days ahead of Modi’s U.S. visit, where he will speak at the Covid-19 global summit on Wednesday. India deferred exports after a surge in delta variant infections began to sweep through the country with shipments stopped in early April.
India has just vaccinated about 14.5% of its population, stirring concerns the country will struggle to balance its domestic needs with its commitments to the World Health Organization’s Covax initiative for poorer countries.
Just last month the head of a leading government advisory panel had indicated that India would only look at resuming exports in 2022 after it had reached its own goal of vaccinating its adult population by year-end.
The decision to restart vaccine exports suggests that India is potentially reworking its vaccine diplomacy strategy as it seeks to strengthen ties with its allies. Modi is expected to hold bilateral meetings with President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris during his U.S. visit, foreign secretary Harsh Shringla told reporters later.
Modi will join Biden, Australia’s Scott Morrison and Japan’s Yoshihide Suga at a meeting of Quad members before speaking at the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday.
In addition to discussing vaccines with Quad partners, India has also pushed for recognition of the Covishield vaccines by the U.K. Shringla said the non-recognition of these AstraZeneca shots manufactured by the Serum Institute of India is “discriminatory” and warned that “reciprocal action” would be considered if the issue wasn’t resolved.
Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval will accompany Modi to discuss trade, clean technologies to battle climate change and security ties with U.S. and Quad partners. The Indian premier will also meet investors and the chief executives of leading U.S. companies, Shringla said.
Talks will also focus on Afghanistan and concerns regarding spread of terrorism and radicalization. A senior government official told reporters that India was ready to help Afghanistan with humanitarian aid, either directly or through the U.N., but its access has been blocked by rival Pakistan.
India has serious concerns over the spread of terrorism in the region and expects the U.S. to help put pressure on the Taliban to follow through on pledges of an inclusive government and including women in all levels of public and social life.
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