The Narendra Modi government has given ironclad assurances to Nepal that it will be among the first countries to receive a pair of Covid-19 vaccines being manufactured in India, the supply schedule for which will be announced this week. The assurance was conveyed to Nepalese foreign minister Pradeep Gyawali during his visit to New Delhi for the Joint Commission Meeting with external affairs minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.
While the political detractors of Nepal Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli had portrayed Gyawali’s visit as a damp squib, fact is that interlocutors of the Nepalese foreign minister in New Delhi were impressed by the professionalism and sobriety with which he approached the bilateral relationship with India.
Gyawali could not meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the Indian PM was totally involved in the launch of the Covid-19 vaccination drive on January 16, according to top government officials. It was only due to the PM’s prior commitments that Gyawali was received by defence minister Rajnath Singh, who is number two in the Modi government.
It is understood that India will be taking care of emergency requirements of its friends by supplying vaccines for restricted use to priority countries in the neighbourhood like Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and the Maldives apart from Nepal with the supply schedule being worked out now.
According to government interlocutors, Gyawali briefed Jaishankar about the preparedness of Nepal to receive the vaccines being manufactured in India. Nepal’s drug regulator approved emergency use of the Covishield vaccine being manufactured by the Serum Institute of India during the foreign minister’s visit to India.
The two countries are now on the way of discussing training of medical modules, who will vaccinate Nepalese front-line workers during the restricted use period. Nepal has a total of 267,056 Covid-19 cases with as many as 1,954 people losing their lives to the pandemic, which originated in China at the end of 2019.
During Gyawali’s visit, the two sides agreed to gradually open the air and land route connectivity, which had been hit by the pandemic. The two countries also agreed to expedite the field location survey related to the Raxaul-Kathmandu railway line. While India and Nepal decided to deepen defence cooperation through closer military-to-military links, Rajnath Singh also offered to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief training and capacity building to the Oli government.
“There were no acrimonious notes during Gyawali’s visit, with the visitor taking a very responsible view of the bilateral relationship,” said an officials present in the bilateral meetings, requesting anonymity.