Explaining India’s Vaccine Diplomacy, in the neighborhood and beyond
India’s Vaccine Diplomacy, huge capacity to make coronavirus vaccines is helping the country take on China in the battle to gain political influence across the developing world. Before COVID-19 vaccines were developed, India supplied some 100 countries with hydroxychloroquine and paracetamol, and sent pharmaceuticals, test kits, and other equipment to around 90 countries.
India’s Vaccine Diplomacy, Indian vaccines have been flown to most of the country’s neighbors, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Myanmar, and Nepal, and also farther afield, to the Seychelles, Cambodia, Mongolia, and Pacific Island, Caribbean, and African countries. Vaccines have helped mend strained relations with Bangladesh and cement friendly ties with the Maldives. Indian vaccines are arriving even in richer countries. The United Kingdom has ordered ten million doses from SII. Canada, whose prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has riled his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, more than once, telephoned Modi to ask for two million vaccines; the first half-million were delivered within days.
The world is paying attention to India as it shares its available vaccine supplies, instead of choosing the nationalist course of blocking exports. India has also offered 1.1 billion vaccine doses to the WHO’s COVAX program to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to poorer countries. Vaccine diplomacy has also involved efforts to undermine trust in the intentions and efficacy of rival powers. China and Russia have both been accused by governments in Europe and North America of state-backed disinformation campaigns seeking to undermine trust in vaccines produced in those regions. In the absence of providing vaccine supplies to poorer countries, some in the west sought to cast doubt on the credibility of Chinese and Russian efforts, presenting them as cynical ploys for diplomatic advantage.
Not that India doesn’t need doses itself. It too has more than a billion people to protect, and while China swiftly suppressed Covid-19, India was unable to prevent the virus from spreading rapidly. But India’s ability to manufacture vaccines was always going to outstrip the nation’s ability to inoculate all of its own citizens. And the country’s leaders can now deploy those millions of surplus vaccines to win friends and influence abroad