India has decided to amp up its medical assistance effort to help authorities abroad combat Covid-19 and has targeted covering 90-plus countries over the next few weeks, people familiar with the development told Hindustan Times on Monday.
New Delhi’s diplomatic outreach is expected to cost Rs 110-120 crore (Rs 1.1-1.2 billion).
This is in addition to drugs and equipment that India is supplying to various countries on commercial terms.
For now, the foreign ministry has pledged to supply drugs, testing kits and other medical assistance worth Rs 60 crore to 67 countries.
“But we have received many more requests that are likely to be cleared by the foreign ministry in view of PM Modi’s clear directions,” a top government official told Hindustan Times.
It is a reference to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s advice to Foreign Minister S Jaishankar in early days of the Covid-19 to reach out to as many countries as possible. PM Modi and Jaishankar have also been working the phones as part of this effort to reach out to as many countries as possible; National Security Adviser Ajit Doval has focussed on west Asian countries such as Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait and Jordan.
Foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla has been tasked with executing the plan.
Out of these 67 countries, a senior government official said the government has already delivered consignments in 29 countries spread out over the South Asian region, the Indian Ocean region, the Gulf (Kuwait), Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Armenia, Tajikistan, Ukraine) and even remotely located countries like Dominican Republic and Ecuador. Six more African countries have received hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and paracetamol as well.
“We have reached aid worth Rs 28 crore to these 29 countries. Consignments worth Rs 13.6 crore are in the pipeline,” the official said.
A big challenge in reaching the assistance to the countries is the transportation logistics, given that international commercial flight operations are severely restricted.
That is why, the official said, India had deployed the navy’s 5,600-tonne landing ship, INS Kesari, to reach medical teams, medicines and supplies to countries in the Indian Ocean region such as Maldives, Mauritius, Madagascar, Comoros and Seychelles.
The two medical assistance teams on board the warship will be deployed in Mauritius and Comoros.
In India’s immediate neighbourhood, India has committed more than Rs 17 crore of medical aid including essential antibiotics, Covid-19 protection gear and testing kits.
Nearly 40% of the committed assistance has been delivered, the rest will reach the SAARC countries this week, a foreign ministry official said.
Apart from medical aid, India has also sent teams of medical personnel called Rapid Response Teams to Kuwait and Maldives, is setting up, conducting webinars to train personnel in other countries and extend technical assistance in other formats. Till date, a government’s status report said, India had provided Rs 8.3 crore worth of Covid-19 assistance in this region till date.
Officials said procurement and delivery of medical assistance to about 50 additional countries including 28 countries in the Latin America and the Caribbean region and 12 countries in Africa. Also in this list are countries in other regions such as Madagascar, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Armenia, Jamaica, Uzbekistan, Malta, Lao PDR and Comoros.
India is providing 10 million HCQ tablets to 67 countries out of which deliveries of 2.8 million have been done to 21 countries (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Mauritius, Nepal, Seychelles, Comoros, Madagascar, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Zambia, Uganda, Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali, DR Congo, Myanmar, Armenia).
Some more requests have been received for additional assistance from another 13 countries in Africa, 7 countries from Western Asia and North Africa region apart from 16 other countries.