India at the forefront with Vaccine diplomacy

Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita says that a gift that is given to another without the expectation of a reward or appreciation is beneficial to the recipient and the donor. Dhana is an important aspect in Santana Dharma. From time immemorial, Indians have displayed compassion to their fellow beings. In our Itihasa, Karna is known for his generosity when he broke the pillars of his palace to provide wood for a sacrifice to a poor brahmin. A devadasi in Madurai sold all her possessions to provide food for her village during the famine. The Chinese scholar Hiuen-Tsang recorded King Harshavardhana’s generous sharing of wealth with his people. The Kings of Thanjavur were known to build rest-houses that provided care for the needy and the sick. Whenever there is a dire need of help, Indians have provided it. 

In the present day, we have witnessed the immense support the country delivered to the rest by sending medications for the treatment of patients with COVID-19. During the pandemic, India supplied medicines to 133 countries including the United States. With vaccines being approved, Indian company Serum Institute of India has decided to step up and set up the large scale production of the vaccine, Covishield with AstraZeneca. Along with Covishield, another vaccine Covaxin is produced by Bharat Biotech and the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR). The vaccine shots have been administered to the frontline healthcare workers as part of the Phase I vaccination drive. 

Being the largest producer of the vaccine in the world, India has decided to lend a helping hand to low and middle- income countries. Over the last few days, India has sent vaccines to Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Maldives, Myanmar, Mauritius and Seychelles. Approvals from Sri Lanka and Afghanistan are awaited. Around 90 countries have approached India for the vaccine. 

This initiative is named Vaccine Maitri or Vaccine Friendship and has been trending with appreciations flooding from our smaller neighbours for having bridged the gap that has given rise to unequal access to the vaccines between the developed and the developing countries. India supported the initiative to suspend IPR over the vaccines and also sponsored the WHO’s resolution for the global access of the vaccine. 

Shipments of the vaccine reached Brazil recently and the Brazilian President tweeted his gratitude towards India for supplying the vaccines with an image of Lord Anjaneya carrying the Sanjeevani mountain’ from India to Brazil. 

India has been the largest manufacturer of vaccines in the world which includes vaccines such as DPT, BCG and MMR. It meets 62% of the global demand for vaccines. The Serum Institute of India was founded 50 years ago and as of the year 2020 it is known to be the largest manufacturer of vaccine by volume in the world producing 1.5 billion doses of vaccines every year. This is much more than global pharmaceuticals such as GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi, which produce 0.69 and 1 billion doses a year. Other companies such as Merck and Johnson & Johnson produce 0.2 billion doses a year. 

With the Vaccine Maitri initiative, India will benefit the Pharma industry for a very long time. Mr Sreeram Chaulia, the Dean at Jindal School of International affairs said that Vaccine Maitri will serve as an important soft power tool and this will counter the influence that China has over South Asia and Africa. 

China is known to station itself as the South-Asian Superpower from the Cold War period. With India gaining the lead in the vaccine manufacture department, experts are of the opinion that China will unleash disinformation that will discredit India. China’s influence on South Asia with regard to trade, military equipment is immense. However, with India supporting the neighbouring countries purely due to goodwill, especially at a time when the world is grappling with the viral infection, will not only help India curb the Chinese influence on these countries but also nullify the recent fall in ties India has had with Nepal and Bangladesh. 

दातव्यमिति यद्दानं दीयतेऽनुपकारिणे |
देशे काले पात्रे तद्दानं सात्त्विकं स्मृतम् || (17.20)

Charity given to a worthy person simply because it is right to give, without consideration of anything in return, at the proper time and in the proper place, is stated to be in the mode of goodness.

Image courtesy: Smt. Vallari Gaikwad(IFS)