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Wednesday, Oct 27, 2021
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Cry, Little Brother

Paralysed by the ferocious surge of the pandemic and seeking help from other nations, the triumphalism of India’s ‘vaccine maitri’ lies buried under a severe loss of prestige

Cry, Little Brother
Cry, Little Brother
outlookindia.com
2021-05-07T13:55:42+05:30

The catastrophic second wave of COVID-19 in India has not just crushed the country’s creaking health infrastructure and exposed the Modi government’s mismanagement of precautions against the pandemic, it has also raised questions on New Delhi’s role as a dependable partner. As a nation with big power aspirations, India aims to project itself as a responsible power able to provide leadership and help out smaller nations during crises. “The message going out since the second wave is clear: India cannot deliver. This is a chronic problem of India’s foreign policy—we are good at making promises, but when it comes to delivery we are found wanting,” says  S.D. Muni, an expert on South Asia.

Many neighbours like Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka are now scrambling for vaccines, with New Delhi having stopped exports following the massive surge. The roll-out schedule of all three nations has had a setback, as vaccines worldwide are in short supply. These countries had signed contracts with the Serum Institute of India for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, but are left high and dry. Faced with stalling vaccination programmes, they are trying to get doses from Russia and China.

“Nepal’s vaccination drive has been impacted by India’s ban on exports,” says an official in Kathmandu. Nepal received one million AstraZeneca vaccines from India as a grant; another 1,00,000 were given to the Nepal army. Nepal has paid for two million doses, of which just 6,00,000 were delivered before the export ban. Another lot of around 2.6 million Covaxin jabs have also been supplied only partially. There is a fear that the second booster dose to complete the process may not be available. Meanwhile, China has moved in, having given Nepal around 8,00,000 doses. Nepal has also asked Russia for its Sputnik vaccine. The...

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