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India sends 6 lakh Covid vaccine doses to Sri Lanka and Bahrain

India rolled out 600,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines as grant assistance for Sri Lanka and Bahrain under its “Vaccine Maitri” initiative on Thursday. Two separate flights transported 500,000 doses to Sri Lanka and 100,000 doses to Bahrain as part of India’s plans to gift the AstraZeneca vaccine to friendly countries in the neighborhood and key partners in other regions.

The supplies to Bahrain marked the first such aid to a country in West Asia, which India sees as part of its extended neighborhood. The arrival of Indian-made vaccines in Colombo coincided with the celebration of Poya Day, which marks the first visit of the Buddha to Sri Lanka. Indian high commissioner Gopal Baglay offered prayers at Gangaramaya Temple and handed over the vaccines to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

The delivery fulfilled Modi’s commitment to his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa, made at their virtual summit last September, for all possible support to address the health and economic impacts of the pandemic.

Since the launch of the Vaccine Maitri initiative on January 20, India has gifted vaccines to Bhutan (150,000 doses), the Maldives (100,000 doses), Bangladesh (two million doses), Nepal (one million doses), Myanmar (1.5 million doses), Seychelles (50,000 doses), and Mauritius (100,000 doses).

“Over the next few days, we plan to gift further quantities to Oman (100,000 doses), CARICOM countries (500,000 doses), Nicaragua (200,000 doses), and Pacific Island states (200,000 doses),” external affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said. “We will continue to supply vaccines to partner countries over the coming weeks and months in a phased manner. Decisions on these supplies will be calibrated against the requirements of the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine at home,” he added.

Observers and experts noted India’s timely rollout of millions of doses as assistance was in contrast to China’s aid to countries in the region, including those with which it has close ties, such as Pakistan and Myanmar. China has pledged to provide 500,000 doses to Pakistan by January 31. Also, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi pledged 300,000 doses for Myanmar during a visit to the country on January 11 but supplies are yet to commence.

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