India leads in efforts to help South Asian neighbors fight COVID-19

New Delhi: Even as the battle rages on domestic front to control the quavering novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infection, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government continues to support South Asian nations in their fight as well against the pandemic.

As the infection count continues to rise in India, the government is working on war-footing not only to flatten the curve in India but also to assist neighbors in ramping up their efforts.

From dispatching emergency medical teams to sending essential supplies, fuel and food – India, soon after triggering the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) initiative against COVID-19, has continued to lead the fight of the subcontinent against the pandemic. 

Bhutan

As Thimphu registered its first-ever COVID-19 infection case, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) assured Prime Minister Lotay Tshering that it will continue to have their backing even as India went in a three-week-long lockdown.

India, since last week, has continued to supply food, essential goods, fuel and medicines to Bhutan. The Nepalese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Indian Embassy in Thimphu have also worked together and drawn up a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on the supply lines. The two governments have even finalized the agencies, from both sides, who will provide the supplies and the vehicles to be used for cross-border assistance. On March 27, several tempos, trucks laden with goods, vegetables, medicines from India crossed the border and entered Bhutan. 

The Maldives

Despite the 21-day lockdown, India supplied staple food, medicines, and essential goods to the Maldives. A statement by the Indian Embassy in the Maldives, on March 25, read that a shipment of stock (essential supplies) enough for 20 days was already en-route to Male. 

In a telephonic conversation Male’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdulla Shahid briefed his Indian counterpart Dr. S Jaishankar on the impact of COVID-19 in the Maldives, and the measures being taken to prevent the spread of the virus. India has assured the Maldives of the continued supply of essential commodities, including rice, flour, and sugar, as well as the provision of medicines and other items during this time of crisis.

Nepal

As a reported decline of imported liquefied petroleum gas from India has hit Nepal, New Delhi has assured Kathmandu of dispatching fuel tankers on priority. The situation developed ever since the border between India and Nepal locked out from March 23. Meanwhile India has said the essential supplies would not be affected despite the closure of its borders. In addition, the Indian Army has also expressed its readiness to dispatch its rapid response team to Nepal to contain the spread of the pandemic. 

Nepal after getting a taste of overpriced Chinese medical supplies has requested India for assistance. According to sources, the Nepalese government paid an exorbitant cost to procure medical supplies from Beijing. Nepalese traders in China have hugely embarrassed the Ministry of Health by charging several times the market price for medical supplies such as masks, testing kits, infrared thermometers, surgical masks, and protective goggles. The government procured $10.39 million worth of health supplies to combat the virus from China. 

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli-led government had sought 10,000 PPE (level 3), 100,000 pieces of PCR test kits and 150,000 pieces of N95 masks from China. It has also placed orders 100 pieces of the portable ventilator with monitor and 19 mobile ambulances with a lab from China. However, sources reported that the entire orders are now been placed with India. 

Bangladesh

India has provided 30,000 surgical masks and 15,000 head-cover to Bangladesh to helps its efforts in combating deadly novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

As per a release, last week the Indian High Commissioner to Dhaka Riva Ganguly Das formally handed over the medical supply to foreign minister Dr. AK Abdul Momen. The assistance is intended to support the efforts of the Bangladesh government in tackling the spread of COVID-19. 

Preparations are also underway to conduct video conferences between medical professionals and other stakeholders in India and Bangladesh for considering specific measures and exchanging best practices to prevent the outbreak of coronavirus in the region, the release said.

Sri Lanka

Before PM Modi announced a lockdown on India, New Delhi had successfully lined up plans to provide essential drugs and emergency supplies, food stock to Sri Lanka. In a special Government to Government (G2G) supply channel, New Delhi will be soon sending the necessary supplies to Colombo. India has readied a consignment of 200 essential drugs required for the next 3 months for the island nation. Sri Lanka has also imported extra food from India for the next two months and will not face any shortage, even with the ongoing three-week lockdown. 

Afghanistan

More than 75,000 metric tons of wheat, alongside large quantities of edible oil and medicines, have been sent by India to Afghanistan as the terror-troubled country battles the rage of the novel coronavirus. 

The shipment of food supplies was received by Kabul at the Chabahar port around a week back. At the same time, President Ashraf Ghani and PM Modi have asked their respective ministries of finance and foreign affairs to facilitate and help key traders of both nations with emergency and urgent procurement.

Ghani was quoted saying, that his government is working closely with India and other countries that have good experience in handling the outbreak. He claimed that Kabul will work with New Delhi to ensure the import of the necessary medicines so that Afghanistan does not face a shortage of essential medicines. 

Leave a Reply