On the 243rd day of the COVID-19 vaccination drive, 37.47 lakh beneficiaries received their first shot and 27.04 lakh their second dose. (Representative image)
India said that while the issue of temporarily waiving patents on COVID-19 vaccines is being deliberated in the WTO, it stands ready to partner with interested countries for the transfer of technology and manufacture of its indigenously developed jabs.
Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, participating in the Commonwealth Foreign Affairs Ministers’ Meeting on behalf of External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, said that in order to address vaccine inequity and promote the interests of the developing world, several of whom are members of the Commonwealth, India, along with South Africa, has proposed the TRIPS waiver for vaccine production in developing countries.
"While this issue is being deliberated in the WTO, we stand ready to partner with interested countries for the transfer of technology and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines indigenously developed in India," Shringla said in his statement.
Under the Quad framework, India is also partnering with Australia, Japan and the United States to expand the vaccine manufacturing capacity in India, to assist countries in the Indo-Pacific region, again several of whom are small island states and members of the Commonwealth, he said.
"We are proactively considering cooperation in critical areas of genomic surveillance and clinical trials," Shringla said.
He said India has taken the initiative to conduct customized COVID-19 specific training programmes for several countries, including Commonwealth member states, to build the capacity of healthcare professionals and administrators.
"We are also making available COVID-19 mitigation technologies, solutions and products, including cost-effective test kits, indigenously developed in India for supply to the rest of the world," Shringla said.
"On the domestic front, we are implementing our vaccination programme successfully, having administered an overwhelming 750 million doses so far, with a record-breaking 10 million doses in a single day," he said.
Shringla asserted that for the Commonwealth to be an effective stakeholder in navigating contemporary global challenges, it needs to adopt an approach that is inclusive, transparent and anchored in reformed multilateralism.
"The re-imagined post-pandemic world will make profoundly different demands from the Commonwealth, which must evolve accordingly so as to be fit for purpose and capable of inspiring confidence in its ability to effectively meet those demands," the foreign secretary said.
"We look forward to the early convening of the Commonwealth Leaders’ Summit in Kigali. We wish Rwanda all success in this endeavour," he said.
Lord Tariq Ahmed, Minister of State in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the United Kingdom hosted Thursday's meeting.
In his remarks, Shringla said more than 18 months into this unprecedented disruption, "we are still grappling with the unknown and the unexpected".
The pandemic and its fallout pose the most serious challenge to policymakers in a generation and more, and governance structures, national and international, have been and are being subjected to unprecedented stress, he noted.
The events of the past year have clearly demonstrated how imperative it is for all countries to coordinate responses to the various challenges that the pandemic has brought to the fore, Shringla said.
"In this context, the significance of the Commonwealth, home to 2.4 billion people, and representing 54 countries, which include both advanced economies and developing countries, cannot be overemphasised," he said.
Shringla said that India, for its part, has risen to the challenge and in the spirit of global solidarity, has provided COVID-19 related support, including pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and vaccines, to more than 150 countries across the world over the last year.
"We appreciate the support extended to us by several other countries to battle the second wave of the pandemic in India, in the same spirit of solidarity," he said.
The foreign secretary said India will continue to extend COVID-19 related assistance to countries in its neighbourhood and beyond, particularly those that have seen a surge in coronavirus cases recently.
"I am also pleased to announce that at the recently held CoWIN Global Conclave, in which more than 140 countries participated, India offered to make its indigenously developed COVID-19 vaccination digital platform CoWIN an open source platform, a global public good available to all countries," he said.
He also said that addressing climate change too deserves focussed attention and much like the pandemic, climate change does not respect either physical or political boundaries, thereby necessitating a globally coordinated response.
"I am pleased to convey that India is not only meeting its Paris Agreement targets, but also exceeding them and has pioneered initiatives such as the International Solar Alliance and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, both of which bring several Commonwealth members within their fold," he said.