Five promising Covid-19 vaccine candidates are in advanced stages of trials in India and Nepal will be among the beneficiaries when the vaccine is finally rolled out, foreign secretary Harsh Shringla said on Friday.
Shringla reiterated India’s commitment to help countries in the region in the fight against the pandemic on the second day of his two-day visit to Nepal aimed at restoring normalcy in the bilateral relationship after a border row earlier this year.
During meetings with Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, foreign minister Pradeep Gyawali and foreign secretary Bharat Raj Paudyal on Thursday, Shringla discussed ways to address the boundary issue through existing mechanisms. Both sides also focused on the need to respect each other’s sensitivities.
Shringla talked about Covid-19-related cooperation while delivering a virtual lecture at the Asian Institute of Diplomacy and International Affairs (AIDIA) in Kathmandu, where he spoke briefly in Nepali.
“We are on the cusp of the availability of a vaccine for the novel Coronavirus. As the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines, India is at the forefront of this effort. We have at least five promising vaccine candidates at advanced stages of trials, and dozens of sites across India are conducting vaccine trials on all ages and social groups,” he said.
“I would like to assure the people of Nepal that once a vaccine is rolled out, meeting Nepal’s requirement would be a priority for us.”
The similarity of the genetic profiles of both countries means that a vaccine which works in India is likely to work for Nepal as well, Shringla said. “Together we will recover from the pandemic and together will protect our people,” he added.
Among the vaccines being tested in India are the AstraZeneca vaccine, Russia’s Sputnik V and another developed by Bharat BioTech.
Shringla also said India is determined to emerge from the pandemic with a stronger economy and robust industrial capacities, and called on Nepal to share in the dreams of building a new India. “We cannot do it alone, we need each other,” he said.
India’s market is open to Nepal’s companies and the neighbouring country’s hydropower potential could be a source of clean energy, he pointed out.
In keeping with his visit’s objective to taking forward cooperation on connectivity and infrastructure projects, Shringla noted that Kathmandu had changed since his last visit about a decade ago but the “hearts and smiles of friends and interlocutors remain unchanged”.
“For India, Nepal is fundamental to our neighbourhood first approach. India’s development and modernisation are incomplete and intrinsically and symbiotically linked to the development and modernisation of neighbouring countries such as Nepal,” he said.
Shringla said his meetings with Nepal’s leadership had left him with no doubt that the two countries are on the same page and that the relationship rests on four pillars – development cooperation, stronger connectivity, expanded infrastructure and economic projects, and enhanced access to education in India.
More than 100 high-impact community projects had been completed in all 77 districts of Nepal since 2014, and a cross-border fuel pipeline – the first of its kind in South Asia – was moving two million metric tonnes of petroleum products and had resulted in savings of more than Nepali Rs800 million.